A blog about family, food and fun!

Author: Oscoey

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 2

Well dear readers, week 2 of the Uber Frugal Month Challenge went off the rails a little bit. We had a busy week with sick kids and another family member was ill so I have not done the last 4 or 5 daily tasks from […]

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 1

Uber Frugal Month Challenge Week 1

A few weeks ago I found the Uber Frugal Month Challenge over at the Frugalwoods and I was immediately hooked. What a great way to start out 2018! I signed my husband and I up and we have spent the last week reading through the daily […]

Gardening Goals for 2018

Gardening Goals for 2018

Last week I posted a sort of list for our financial goals for 2018. Today I wanted to lay out some goals we have for our garden.  We learned a lot last year about where the best light is for our small vegetable patch and this year we will definitely be making some changes. This year is our third year working on the garden and every year we learn a little bit more and improve our garden space.

 

Some things that worked for us last year were squash, green beans and pumpkins.  Our pumpkins took up way too much space though so next year instead of planting four plants I will just stick with two and I am going to put them in the side yard so they can grow all the way down our hill. We loved our green beans and squash but I am embarrassed to say we did not eat all of it in time. Since we didn’t get enough each day to make a meal out of it or to freeze in a decent sized batch, some of our beautiful produce ended up in the compost bin.  We still have one pumpkin, two decent sized spaghetti squash, and a few tomatoes that slowly ripened on our window sill left but other than that everything is gone.

 

Spaghetti Squash!

 

My plan for next year is:

 

1. Organize my garden planning with a garden journal

This has been on my list for the past two years and I just haven’t followed through. I even bought a beautiful notebook and colorful pens to make wonderful drawings of all the plants we will grow but besides a few lists of what we planted (I think) it hasn’t been touched. I am pretty sure I wrote down what I planted at the beginning of the season but my notebook has been collecting dust since last spring so at some point in the next week I will get it out and start recording for this year. This year I want to have some simple diagrams of where we plant things for crop rotation and a better list of what grew where.  I absolutely love how organized Annie over at 15acrehomestead is. She has tons of great posts for organizing your homesteading projects. I especially love this one where she lays out how to plan your projects for 2018.

 

End of season harvest.

 

2. Plant enough zucchini, green beans and peas to freeze for the entire year

This one is a little ambitious. We did not plant peas last year so I don’t know how well they will do in our space but I am hoping to find somewhere they do well. We need probably two more zucchini plants for a total of four to grow enough for the winter. I am the only one who eats it so we don’t need a whole lot but the challenge will be getting it processed every day. Last year we got quite a few green beans but the way I planted them made them hard to harvest and we did not inoculate at all (whoops) so I think as long as we get enough plants growing at the right time and I stay on top of picking and processing them we will be able to produce enough green beans to feed us all year. I am really excited about the possibility of green beans from our garden next winter! It turns out they are the only green beans my son will eat and it was a sad day when I cooked the last of them and then he refused the ones I bought at Costco as a replacement.

 

English Ivy climbing our tree.

 

3. Remove the ivy from all of the trees in our backyard

We got a good start last summer pulling English Ivy off of the trees in our backyard and this year I would love to finish.  I would also like to remove all of the ivy off the ground which is doable but it will constantly grow back so it will be an ongoing battle. English Ivy is a horrible invasive species here in the Pacific Northwest and many of the trees in the greenbelt behind our house are covered in it.  If we don’t girdle the ivy on the trees near our house at some point the ivy will weaken the trees enough to cause them to topple over in a windstorm.  We have frequent windstorms in our area so the possibility is definitely real.  Every day I drive down the street behind us and look at these giant trees that are covered past their lower branches with a ring of ivy at least 3 feet thick all the way around. I know some day soon at least one of those trees will fall and completely block the road. I am really hoping that nobody gets hurt when it happens.

 

Ornamental plants in the front yard.

 

4. Continue to replace our high maintenance ornamental bushes with food producing ones

The lady that lived here before us densely planted these gorgeous ornamental bushes that are very pretty but require constant pruning and I am sure fertilizer.  They also require a large amount of water in the summer which is pretty wasteful to me.  The one thing I love about all of our flowery bushes is the healthy bee population they support.  All spring and summer our yard is buzzing with friendly bees that easily pollinate our fruits and vegetables.  The amount of pruning and watering they require is too much for us though so we are slowly replacing them with lower maintenance native plants.

 

Blueberries on our bushes.

 

5. Continue to keep our berry bushes and fruit trees in top shape

We love our fruit at this house! Last year we planted some raspberries, a pear tree, a blueberry bush and some strawberries in addition to the apple tree and blueberry bushes we already had.  At this point we really don’t have room for much else without a major front yard overhaul so our goal is to keep them healthy and producing throughout the summer!

 

 

We have really enjoyed having a yard for the kids to play in. The back is pretty steep though and requires some skill to navigate safely so this year will be the first year our son is able to walk around back there on his own.  The kids had fun helping me pull ivy last weekend and I introduced them to the cool space I found underneath a bush that could definitely be a fairy hideout.  I am looking forward to spring and seeing the yard come alive again.  What projects are you working on this year?

 

 

 

A List of Sort of Financial Goals for 2018

A List of Sort of Financial Goals for 2018

Usually this time of year I start looking over our finances for the year, project our income a year ahead and start setting some goals for the year. I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions because I am not great at following through with them but […]

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

How we Avoid Birthday Present Overgiftingitus

When my oldest daughter turned one many years ago she was inundated with so many gifts they filled a small kiddie pool. She was the first grand kid on my side and her dad has a large family plus being the first child of our […]

Using AARP’s New Tool to Plan Your Retirement

I was given the opportunity this week to check out a new retirement planning tool by AceYourRetirement.org and although I was not paid for this article it does contain promotional material. I would never post about something I have not tried myself and I always give my honest opinion about any product I recommend.

 

One of our biggest goals over the past 10 years as a couple has been to maximize the amount we are able to put into retirement savings.  It is really easy for families to get sidetracked with everyday expenses and short-term goals such as upcoming vacations or maybe the kids have extra-curricular activities that need paying for and lose sight of the bigger picture. We have been focusing on retirement and ever so slowly our small nest egg has begun to grow. I am really glad we have been focusing on retirement too because my parents did not and now they are struggling to find ways to support themselves after some medical issues popped up.  I do not want to put my children through the same kind of stress so by maximizing our retirement savings I am hoping to prevent it. 

 

 

The fact that 2 out of 5 households do not save for retirement is very worrying.  Even small savings steps can pay off in the long run. Our family went from struggling to save 4% to get our full employee match eight years ago to reaching our goal of 10% this year and I am super proud of us.  It took a lot of hard work, determination and some aggressive debt repayment but I am finally feeling a little bit more secure about our future.  Some of our savings tips can be found here on the blog:

 

  1. A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer
  2. A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending
  3. A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

 

Understanding your exact retirement needs can be confusing sometimes since there are so many ideas on what is the best approach. Here are some simple tips for helping you get started with easy-to-understand resources at AceYourRetirement.org. We follow many of these steps and I found a few more great ideas when I went through the AceYourRetirement.org website. It only took a few minutes too!

 

5 things to consider to help you maximize your retirement savings.

 

  1. Minimize debt – but not at the expense of paying into your 401k or other retirement accounts. The less debt-load you have during your retirement, the more you’ll be able to make your retirement dollars stretch.
  2. Don’t rely solely on Social Security – in fact people are often recommended to wait until up to age 70 to collect Social Security to allow benefits to grow more.
  3. Consider whether downsizing your living quarters makes sense once children are grown and out of the house.
  4. Make sure your beneficiary designations are up-to-date and talk to your spouse to make sure everyone is on the same page.
  5. If you’ve been divorced but not remarried you may be eligible to Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse.
  6. Enroll in a retirement savings plan. Even a little bit held out from each paycheck can really add up.
  7. Never contribute less to your 401k account than your employer matches if they offer a matching program. Save more if possible and increase your savings by 1% per year whenever possible.

 

This time of year can often get pretty hectic with all financial goals flying out the window. Winter clothes, Christmas presents, and so on. But this year I’m already looking ahead at next year’s goals. The retirement calculator and tool at AceYourRetirement.org was great for personalized, simple tips on how to jumpstart my retirement savings. It was so helpful to me to see a couple areas that I could adjust to help improve the financial situation of our family.  Now that we have hit our goal of saving 10% we are looking to increase our retirement savings by 1% every year and try and eventually maximize our contributions. One of the ideas that AceYourRetirement.org mentioned for us was for me to start working again to maximize our Social Security benefits.  I have been thinking of going back to work part-time and this has motivated me to start looking for a job! I also love that they recommend you find a hobby to earn extra income during retirement. Just because you retire doesn’t mean you can’t earn extra income! 

 

 

Taking steps to take control of your retirement planning could have a positive impact in many areas of your life. Many times families save for their kids’ college and leave nothing for themselves to retire on.  This puts extra pressure on the kids to support their parents later on in life, something that many young adults may not be prepared both financially and emotionally to do.  More than half of people in their 40s and 50s say that feeling more confident about saving for retirement would help them feel less stressed (54%). And 46% would be happier knowing they are taking care of their family’s future. I know I feel better about our retirement path after working through the AARP website AceYourRetirement.org. You should check it out and see what easy steps they have for you!

 

 

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 3: Reducing our Clothing Spending

Hello and welcome to the third installment of our A New Beginning in Budgeting Series! Our first installment was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 1: Using Quicken to Build a Buffer” and our second was “A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our […]

Dried Banana Chips

Dried Banana Chips

One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Baking chocolate chip cookies with the kids is one of my favorite family activities. When we had to go dairy and gluten free I was a little upset but I found a way to make chocolate chip cookies with some easy substitutions. Back when we had only one kid we made our own gluten free flour mixtures tailored to whatever we were making but now that we have three kids and our time is in very short supply I have been buying an all-purpose gluten-free flour. We found it at Costco for a decent price. It works pretty well for generic recipes and I use it in my Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Banana Bread and it tastes very similar to regular flour.

 

 

Gather your ingredients. We buy most of our items from Costco as you can see!

 

 

Cream your coconut oil and sugar in a bowl.

 

 

Add your eggs and vanilla and mix until blended.

 

 

Now add your baking soda, salt and flour. I like to split the flour in two to cut down on the mess. Purists will mix their dry ingredients in a separate bowl before mixing in with the wet ingredients but I like to avoid washing more dishes if at all possible so I have always done it this way.

 

 

 

Next add your chocolate chips.  The recipe calls for 2 cups but honestly I just dump what I think is a good amount in and call it good. I like the dough to be full of chocolate chips so I probably add more like 2.5 cups but it really is a personal preference.

 

 

Once you are done mixing place the dough in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.

 

 

I usually freeze at least half of it by double wrapping it in plastic wrap.  It is really convenient to have a little bit of cookie dough in the fridge for those days that you need to whip some dessert up in a hurry. Sometimes we will portion it out ahead of time and freeze on cookie trays so we can bake individual cookies which is great for when the grownups want an after bedtime treat!

 

 

Once chilled, set the dough out on the counter for 20-30 min and then used a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon to divide up the dough. Place it on a cookie sheet with a Silpat, ball it up a bit and then squash the tops so that they are a little flat.

 

 

Bake for 5-7 minutes at 350 degrees or until done. Leave on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes then transfer them too a cooling rack and let cool.

 

And that my friends is how we make our easy Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies! They are great with milk (both soy and regular). At some point I might get ambitious and try making dairy-free ice cream sandwiches with them.

 

What is your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe?

 

Mini Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

September 27, 2017
: 45
: 2 hr 50 min
: 6 min
: 26 min
: Easy

These easy to make dairy-free, gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are delicious! They are perfect for parties, events and for making with the kids.

By:

Ingredients
  • 3/4 c coconut oil
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups Gluten-Free flour
  • 2 cups dairy-free chocolate chips
Directions
  • Step 1 Cream your coconut oil, granulated sugar and brown sugar in a bowl.
  • Step 2 Add the eggs and vanilla and mix on low.
  • Step 3 Add your baking soda, salt and 1/2 of the flour and mix. Once mixed add the remaining flour and mix until smooth.
  • Step 4 Add your chocolate chips and stir until combined.
  • Step 5 Chill your dough for at least 2 hours or up to 24 hours.
  • Step 6 Remove dough from the fridge and let sit out at room temperature for 30 min.
  • Step 7 Set oven to 350 degrees while you measure out your dough with a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon. When you measure pack the dough into the 1 Tbsp measuring spoon and flip onto the cookie sheet. Mold into balls and flatten slightly.
  • Step 8 Bake for 5-7 min on the middle rack or until done.
  • Step 9 Remove from the oven and cool on a wire cooling rack.
  • Step 10 Enjoy!
  • Step 11 If you decide not to bake all it at once you can double wrap the dough in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 weeks. Let thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before removing it to bake.

 

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending

A New Beginning in Budgeting Part 2: Adjusting our Grocery Spending

A little while ago I wrote about how we have been working on our budget and how I use Quicken to track our finances.  I love the Savings Goals category and it has helped us tremendously the last few months to keep track of how […]