I am Guilty.

That’s right. I’m guilty.

I’m guilty of neglecting this blog. You got me.

So I’m here to check in with some small excuses updates on why I haven’t been around.

We all know that life gets busy. This year all three of my littles are in school, my three year old just started every day full-time junior kindergarten and at the same time I started a job! It hasn’t been an easy adjustment. I often don’t see my children until bedtime each night and sometimes less than that if they go to their Dad’s house for the weekend. It’s been an emotionally trying time for all of us. My kids are going to a sitter for the first time in their lives ever.

Our house is in a constant state of distress, because I’m mid-purge/back to school cleaning but I keep putting it on hold halfway through for work or my parental responsibilities and there is just stuff everywhere.

Which brings me to my so called journey to minimalism! Somehow in the last few months we have accumulated more stuff. I don’t really know how. It must be the stuff that was already lurking in closets, and we’ve been trying to redecorate. But why a family of four needs more than 15 bath towels I will never be able to say. (I’ve since cut that down to our three favorite large bath towels and one patterned beach towel per kid). How nice would it be, to come home from work to an orderly house each day because there isn’t enough stuff to make a mess with?! It sounds like a distant dream.

So there you have it. I’m still here, hiding around the corner and trying to keep my lid on.

My Three Top YOUTUBERS!

Just a quick post today about my three favorite youtubers. With so many people turning to youtube for information or income, to share their knowledge, and just for fun, it can be overwhelming to sort through which ones are right for you. Many times I have subscribed to people and after a few weeks realize that their content just isn’t for me.

Here’s my top three youtubers and why I love them.

1. Brittany Taylor.
I can not tell you how much I love her channel. She is so inspiring in that she is not afraid to chase after her dreams and lives life simply by following a minimalist lifestyle. Truly beautiful inside and out, Brittany Taylor will take you through her journey of a life fully lived. Her channel covers travel, minimalism, and life improvement including a raw vegan diet. She inspires me to be the best version of myself.

2. FruitAndFamily Natalie.
This channel speaks directly to my life! Natalie is from my corner of the world, has three children and a husband and is living her own vegan path. Follow her journey while she inspires her own family to eat healthier, talks about pregnancy and weight loss, and is always very positive in her message. I love this channel because it is a no judgement zone, understanding that often vegans can be harsh in their passion to change the world and that can easily backfire. A wonderful Mom and person, FruitAndFamily Natalie is a great channel for women, Mom’s, and anyone curious about the vegan lifestyle.

3. Bite Size Vegan.
Super cute, with a fun personality and no BS attitude, Bite Size Vegan will tell you what is up in the world of veganism. With motivating interviews and a great sense of humor there is something here for everyone. Even kids! The new series of kids videos are to the point, interesting, but not graphic or disturbing. After all, the goal isn’t to scare the poor children and cause permanent psychological damage! So weather you’re young, old, or somewhere in between I’m sure you can find inspiration and useful information from Bite Size Vegan. An entertaining vegan encyclopedia in video form for extra convenience.

*Note* These are just my top three vegan channels; there are a lot of wonderful youtube channels out there about several topics! It’s up to you to explore them and find what fits you best.

Vegan Sloppy Joes!

It’s an awful dreary day here in Ontario, so what better warm bellied comfort food than sloppy joes? In all honesty, it’s likely been around 18 years since I’ve had them but I have to say that these were pretty exceptional.

I often receive cans of baked beans in tomato sauce from the local food bank, so that was my inspiration for this dish. We ate them up too fast for a photo op.

Ingredients:
(serves 4)
1 can beans in tomato sauce
1 small onion chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 package yves veggie ground round
3 tbsp smoky barbecue sauce
garlic margarine
hamburger buns

Prepare the buns by spreading some garlic margarine on the open face of each half.

Start frying the onions in a bit of olive oil until they’re translucent. Add in the yves veggie ground round and saute until well heated.

Stick the buns in the oven on low (no higher than 200!) for a few minutes just to lightly toast them.

Add the can of beans in tomato sauce and stir thoroughly. Mix in some smoky barbecue sauce for extra flavor.

Scoop the bean mixture on top of the garlicky buns and enjoy!

**Bonus: Even my 8 year old highly sensitive kid who despises any beans and would once never eat anything brown ate his full serving without complaint.**

What $11.67 Looks Like

So my budget got a little smaller over the weekend. And just as I’m sitting down to lunch, the phone rings. It’s my Mom, asking me if I want to run to the grocery store with her. I don’t have much money, and I won’t know much on what I need until after I go to the food bank on Tuesday. But I said sure, why not?

This is what I picked up while we were there:

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I know, it doesn’t look like much. Here’s a breakdown:

1 two-pack discount blueberries 0.99
1 pack potatoes 0.49
2 packs bananas 0.49 each
1 organic lemonade 1.99
2 almond milks 2.99 each
Pack of noodles 0.98

And there you have it. Total of 11.67 (with tax)

Everything was on sale. Tomorrow night we’ll be having tofu sesame noodles made with that pack of noodles above. One night this week we’re having mashed potatoes with gravy and some Gardein “chicken” that I have in the freezer. Blueberries for snacks and lunches, bananas for snacks and smoothies. And I still have roughly $50 left in the budget for this week!

Food Saving Tips – Discount Produce

I just wanted to share that during yesterdays grocery shop, I picked up a few cheap items from the discount produce shelves. This is a great way to save money though you always need to check the produce over carefully before committing to the purchase!

The first thing I picked up was a bag of eight small corn on the cobs for $0.99. I cut them all in half, sliced off any sketchy bits and threw them in a pot to boil. We ate them with veggie burgers and fries. Corn isn’t something that I would typically buy but my kids really enjoy corn on the cob. We each ate one half and the rest went into the kids lunches.

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The next discount item that I bought was fresh chives! They come in over priced plastic containers but they’ve been on my list for ages. The problem was, any time I found the dried chives in the spice aisle I found that they were asking a horrendous amount of money for a very small amount. So when I saw two containers going for $0.99 total, I tossed them in the cart. When I got home I sat down and picked out any pieces that were too far gone, and chopped the rest using my little kitchen scissors. Then I rinsed them in a “quinoa strainer” as I call it (just a metal strainer with very tiny holes) and shook them out on a tray to dry out before putting them back in a tupperware container to freeze. I love using chives in many recipes, including twice baked potatoes and pizza dough.

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The trick with most produce (discounted or not) is to take care of it right away. While some hardy produce can last a week or two, there comes a point when it must be used up or stored differently if you don’t want to throw it away like money down the pooper. If I had waited a day or two before tending to this produce it would have been too late. Now I have fresh chives at my convenience any time I need them and we were able to get a meal and two lunches out of the corn. I would say that it was $2 well spent!

Grocery Haul Over Budget

I’m not going to post my full grocery haul this week, but I’ll give you a brief break down! Off we went to the grocery store, precise list in hand including estimated dollar amounts based on the flyer and experience alone. My plan was for $70 and that would leave me some wiggle room for the health food store with a max budget of $100. I was doing great, two stores in for all the best deals and only $67!

Then we went to the health food store (dun dun dun!). All I wanted to get were some veggie burger buns, vegan cheese slices and maybe some tofurky slices for the kids school lunches. But oh look, ice cream! We missed our special ice cream day this past weekend and my kids go off to their Dad’s on Friday. So I got to thinking.. but when I looked at the price of our regular size ice cream container it was nearly $9! That’s $3 more than what I would usually pay at Wal-Mart. But there was a package of four coconut ice cream bars on sticks (whatever you call those things) dipped in chocolate. That was much cheaper (only $5!). Yeah why not, right? But next to the ice cream is nori sheets. And I’ve had vegan sushi on my mind lately. I wandered over a few steps to check out the prices.. opted for the cheapest one at $7 and went to get those buns and tofurky slices. But then.. they had some cheese shreds on sale! ON SALE! Despite the fact that I already picked up two bags of the Daiya Chedder shreds at a cheaper store, the mozerella shreds here were even cheaper! Another bag won’t hurt anything. Then I realized that if we wanted to eat veggie burgers and fries tonight, I won’t feel like making the burgers so I’d better pick some up. And oh hell, it’s hard work buying groceries! A natural root beer and dark chocolate bar later.. we were finally at the check out when I saw that naan bread taunting me. “It’s pizza night.. you know it is.. the kids should have pizza in their lunch for pizza day tomorrow.. pizza.. piizzaaaa…” Yep. So $51 later we’re finally home.

A total spent of $118.11

Here’s a break down of our items, if you wish to continue reading..

Foil Wrap
Fries
Daiya Chedder (x2)
Strawberries 1lb (x2)
Green Onion (Scallions) (x2)
Navel Orange 3lb (x2)
$21.43

Laundry Detergent
Reduced Produce (chives and corn on the cob)
Sweet Red Peppers(0.900 kg/1.98 lbs)
Bananas (3.14 kg/6.92 lbs)
Sweet Onion (1.20 kg/2.64 lbs)
Frozen Strawberries
Coconut Whipped Topping
Soy Milk (x2)
Wheat Tortilla
45.25

Chocolate Bar
Naan Bread
Root Beer
Tofurky Slices
Tofutti Cheese Slices
Whole Grain Burger Buns
Coconut Ice Cream Bars
Sol Burgers
$51.43

So there you have it. A not so brief break down of our grocery shopping day. This will last us a while though and is just fill in foods for what we already have at home. The nori will make for an extra meal that wasn’t planned on but it’s so nice to switch things up now and then. We have enough cheese for two weeks. We have cereal that needs to be eaten before we buy more even if it’s not the kids favorite. Canned goods to be used up. And from Friday evening until Sunday at bed time I am only feeding myself. That small break in custody every two weeks does a lot to stretch my grocery budget out! All of the above is for a family of four; myself, my 8 year old, 7 year old and three year old.

Ditching The Disconnect

Sometimes when life gives you lemons, it can be tempting to create a disconnect; to put up some walls and mentally withdraw from your life. You manage to go through the daily motions and on the outside everything appears to be okay but inside you feel passionless and empty to the point of complete boredom. And if you’re not careful, you can become lost in a sea of monotony.

If this sounds at all familiar, you may be in a rut of displeasure. But don’t fret; there is a way out!

List Your Passions
A good place to start lifting your way from boredom to invigoration is to consider what you were passionate about before the lemons turned sour. What was it that really got your blood boiling; a specific cause, art, family, health, the outdoors, anything that ‘turned you on.’

A Few of Your Favorite Things

“When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad”

Julie Andrews said it right; think about all your favorite things and find a way to combine a few. Listening to your favorite music while eating your favorite foods and talking on the phone with your favorite person can give you such a mood boost. As long as you’re making healthy choices and paying attention to what makes you happy it will be difficult to stay in that mindless state.

Make Connections Happen
Face it: connections aren’t made on their own. In order to reconnect with your life you will have to do the work. Try looking for local meet ups, groups or activities that are in line with your passions. The more involved you are in the makings of your own life the better you’re going to feel in your soul.

Gather Friends
Surround yourself with people who inspire you, and you will succeed. Who we associate with can have a large impact on our state of mind. Humans are impressionable creatures and moods are relatively contagious so the more positive and forward thinking your social scene is the more successful you will be. While you don’t have to cut negative people out of your life completely, realize how much energy that mindset sucks out of you and try to limit exposure where you can.

Try Something New
Maybe you’ve outgrown your passions and reconnecting with them just isn’t working for you. That’s okay! Try doing something new that excites you to think about or maybe something that you never thought you would do before. Facing your fears and stepping out of your personal bubble can be invigorating to the spirit and leave you feel empowered.

Whatever it is you do, don’t sit around on your rump waiting for change to happen. Take control of your life and add some (vegan) sugar to those sour lemons… lemonade is only a few hard squeezes away.
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“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things

Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things

When the dog bites, when the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.”

The Sound Of Music – My Favorite Things (maria) Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

Little Food Haul

It’s grocery shopping day! If you saw the last food haul post you will know that it was big! So big in fact that I still have a lot of produce and other items left, allowing me to do a smaller grocery haul this week.

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So in this food haul from two different stores, I was able to cash in on some sales from last week with rain checks. Here’s what I got:

Blueberries (as a treat for my son)
Avocados
Bananas
Grapes
1 Onion
Tomatoes
Brussel Sprouts
Tortilla Wraps
Bread (x2)
Bagels
Frozen Strawberries (x2 on sale)
Almond Milk (x2 on sale)
Clif Bars (x2 boxes on sale)
Root Beer (natural, my treat)
Rice noodles (x2)
Daiya “Cheese” (x2)

Also, three itty bitty bite sized chocolates; one for myself, my Dad who was with us and my son.
The grand total came to $85.63 – Just over $14 under budget!

Vegan Kids Lunches – 1

What do vegan kids eat for lunch?

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Tomorrow my kids will be taking left over vegan pizza (I love pizza night, lunches made easy!) and a bowl of strawberries and grapes. The bars are a blueberry fig bar and MADEGOOD chocolate chip granola bar. I love these because they have vegetables such as beats and carrots in them too, and my kids don’t seem to know the difference.

I try to pack foods that are similar to those that their friends eat because at the tender ages of six and eight, they have already complained about their lunch looking different than every one else. I’ve even noticed some resentment from my oldest, and so it’s about compromise and understanding that each child has their own life path no matter what we want for them. I keep it vegan, but sometimes my son will eat all of his lunch as fast as he can so that he can pick something from the bin at school, usually a non-vegan, dairy item like cheese strings. So as a parent, I can only do my best!

Every Wednesday at school kids can get pizza orders, so we have pizza night on Tuesday and always make a bit extra for Wednesday lunch. Vegan doesn’t have to be difficult or different. 🙂

Let’s Talk Kale Chips

Call me crazy, but I’ve never been into kale chips. The taste was something like that between fish food flakes and bitter greens, or so bland that I might as well just grab a fresh bunch of kale and start munching.

In my food haul post, you will have seen that I did buy some kale chips. A new brand of kale chips is being sold at our health food store and my official review is: Edible!

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Solar Raw Food Ultimate Kale Chips in the Red Peppercorn Ranch flavor is all they had. The packaging is bright and fun, and (bonus!) they’re made in Canada!
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While the cashews make these a little high in fat, these kale chips pack a nutritional punch. Vitamin A alone is at 70%.. most of the ingredients are “sustainably grown without herbicides or pesticides.” Everything is air dried below 118F (47C), preserving the nutrients with minimal loss. They definitely pack a ranch punch of flavor, and occasionally you get a rare treat of some whole cashews in the mix. The chips themselves are also very pretty!
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Overall, these are the best kale chips I have tried thus far. I would love to try some other flavors though, such as “Better than Cheddar,” “Spicy Curry Lime,” and especially “Hemp Cream and Chive.”