Cooking in a Minimalist Kitchen

Cooking in a Minimalist KitchenOne of the things I was looking forward to the least when we moved into our 400 sq. ft. house was the tiny kitchen.

I’d been living in a one bedroom apartment for four years and then a studio, but the kitchens in those spaces were expansive compared to the tiny little space I was about to try and cram my cooking arsenal into.

My kitchen consists of two shelves, two reasonably deep cupboards, and two more that are only about a foot deep.

There’s no counter space to speak of, other than a single surface to prepare food.

I knew going into it that I was going to have to really take a look at my kitchen stuff and pair it down in order to function in that tiny space efficiently.


One of Each

When it came to food preparation tools, like pots and pans, I stuck to the one of each rule. One big frying pan, one small. One cast iron pan. One cookie sheet, one big casserole dish, one small. By eliminating duplicates (many of which I’d accumulated as hand me downs through school) I was able to fit most of my cookery into one of the cupboards.


Keep Only What You’ll Use!

I think everyone reading this has some product in their kitchen that they’ve never used but can’t bring themselves to throw out or donate. Something that you think you’ll need someday, perhaps? I took a hard look at what had been gifted to me over the years and started to pair down.

I got rid of the handheld mixer (I love to cook, but don’t bake), the four beer pitchers, the small veggie chopper, and innumerable other things that I knew that I’d honestly never use. I didn’t get rid of everything though, I kept one nice glass pitcher, the gravy boat, the handheld immersion blender, our Magic Bullet, and I’ll keep our new blender until it croaks. Sure some of that stuff I only used occasionally, but it was worth hanging on to. Most of it – however, got donated.


Minimalist Cutlery

I live with my fiance, and since our place is so small, we don’t entertain too often. Because of this, an expansive collection of plates and bowls isn’t necessary. I have a set of four bowls, plates and mugs, and that’s more than enough. A bonus to having less of this stuff is that doing the dishes is so much easier! We’re never tempted to leave the dishes unwashed, because we’ll run out if we do!


Organize and Clean Often – Be Merciless!

Living as a minimalist in a small kitchen can be a challenge. Things can get messy and out of control in the small cupboards quickly. The only way to keep things under control is to clean and organize frequently. Any food ingredient that is more than a year old gets put on the “cook with this now” list or gets tossed.

For example, I’ve had a bag of dried black beans taking up valuable real estate in my cupboard for awhile now. Our mission this month is to use them up, otherwise, they’re getting tossed! Luckily, because there’s so little space, frequent cleaning and organization sprees don’t take long.


Move the Seldom Used Items Out of the Way

There are a few things that I need for cooking, but rarely use. I hate pawing through various items in my cupboards in search of a random utensil or pan, so instead, anything that doesn’t get used regularly goes into storage in our laundry room, where space isn’t so precious.

If I need the item, I’ll go and get it. This is where I keep my crock pot, my large simmering pot, and my roasting pan.


Doing Double Duty

This is the key to a minimalist kitchen. Do you really need three salad bowls of varying sizes when a mixing bowl will do the same job? Do you need a complete tupperware set when you can just throw some tin foil over a bowl and achieve the same effect?

My favourite double duty item is the mason jar. It makes the perfect container to store dry goods, left overs, smoothies, freshly ground coffee, and for taking my lunch to work. I even use one to grow sprouts at home. I always have a few mason jars in rotation for whatever needs done.


Living with a Minimalist Kitchen – You Have to Want It

I recently was trying to help a friend pair down her kitchen utensils. She had everything one could wish for in a well appointed kitchen, but no place to put it all. Every time I would make a suggestion for her to get rid of something, she’d explain why she needed to keep this item. This went on for awhile until I realized that she didn’t want to give up any of her stuff.

Being a minimalist in the kitchen takes some adjustment. There will be moments when you say “Damn, I wish I had _____”. Eventually, those moments will become fewer and farther between, and in time, you’ll be completely adjusted to living with a minimalist kitchen.

Have you ever thought about living with less in your kitchen? I want to know!


Keeping Up With The Joneses

Keeping Up With The JonesesDo you ever feel like you are trying to keep up with the Joneses? It seems like everywhere I turn, a big purchase is happening to someone I know. A massive 3 story house, nice cars, fancy vacations, a new iPad every other month and everything else.

When a friend goes out and buys the next greatest phone or buys a new car every couple of months, it kind of makes you wonder, and maybe it makes you jealous?

I’m not going to lie, the jealous monster takes over my life every now and then. This is something that I am working on and something that I need to change in my life. Am I the only one? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who is jealous and no one else has these crazy feelings. Since my extra income seems to be continually increasing, sometimes I feel the urge to spend it.

Maybe the jealous monster has taken over your life as well and you are trying to keep up with the Joneses.

We know someone who isn’t showy with his money, he is careful with how he spends his money. He doesn’t buy all the latest gadgets that don’t mean anything to him. Instead he spends money on his family, vacations, making his house into a home, family gatherings at his home, and other things that truly mean something to him.

He is the perfect example that just because you “might” have money to spend, it does not mean that you should. Buying all of the newest things all of the time doesn’t always mean everything in life.

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Stay Frugal This Winter

Winter is not one of my favourite seasons. I live in Canada and here, winter is a long, dark, cold season. The snow hits in December, and stays until April. Temperatures can go down to -35C (-31F) and stay there for weeks, and we measure the snow on the ground by feet, not inches or centimetres.

I’ve never really been an outdoor sports kind of girl, and winter is no exception. Since I don’t ski, snowboard, snowmobile, skate, or play hockey, a lot of the great nordic past times are lost on me.

That said, I’ve got family here, so I really can’t see myself moving to a warmer climate anytime soon. So, I’ve come up with a bunch of fun, frugal winter activities that make passing this season a little easier, and a little more fun.

Fun, Frugal Winter Activities

Snow Man Building – After a fresh snowfall, nothing is more fun than building a snow man. The snow is usually best for building snowmen when the weather is warmer, the excess moisture makes the snow pack together well. As an adult, I find building snowmen creatively to be a lot of fun.

 A Winter Fire – I love campfires, and winter campfires are no exception. They help you stay warm during a day of fun outside, and there’s no worry about starting a forest fire like there is in the middle of summer. Just make sure not to get too close! Once when huddled around a fire in the winter, I melted the rubber sole of my shoe – I was just trying to get warm.

Admiring Christmas Lights – This used to be something that the older members of my family did, but in the last few years I’ve really come around to their way of thinking. (Maybe I’m just getting old?) Taking a stroll around the town to admire some of the festively decorated houses can be a lovely way to spend the evening.

Sledding – Parks, meadows, and school playgrounds are great venues for sledding. Ideally, there’s a hill involved, but make sure it’s not too long (long walk back) steep (too much speed) or near any roads (danger!) Also, avoid waxing your sledding aparatus, lest you end up like dear Clark.

Magic Tree in the Cold Winter Night with Dark Blue Sky

Hunkering Down – One of my favourite past times during a heavy snow fall (after I’ve ensured I don’t need to navigate the roads anytime soon) is to just hunker down in my little house and watch it come down. Add in a cozy blanket, a cup of tea, and a movie, and you’ve got yourself one of my ideal afternoons.

Now, a lot of these outdoor activities can end up pretty unpleasant. Cold feet, runny noses, chapped lips and too much ambition can make any of the activities above end up a lot less pleasant than you’d planned. So, follow some of these basic tips to help keep your frugal winter activities fun.

Warm Drinks – My drink of choice is hot apple cider (rum optional). I always make sure to bring a warm drink along on any trip in my mega-insulated mug. Whenever I start to get chilly, my warm beverage helps ward off the cold.

Lip Balm and Tissues – I run outside all winter long and these two items are always on my must have list. The cold, dry air chaps not just my lips, but the end of my nose and my cheeks. If there’s a breeze, my eyes run like crazy, streaming tears that are likely to freeze if I don’t wipe them away. The tissues also come in handy for my perpetually runny nose. (How’s that for a nice mental picture?) If I don’t have these two items during a winter excursion, I’ll definitely have less fun!

Appropriate Attire – Don’t be a tough guy/girl and skimp on winter gear if you want to have a fun day out in the white stuff. A wicking base layer is key to keeping any sweat your planning on working up from giving you a chill, and from there it’s all about insulation and wind breaking. Don’t forget to equip your feet, head and hands, as much as the rest of you.

Winter Doesn’t Have to Be a Drag

There are, undoubtedly, fewer frugal and fun winter activities than there are in the summer time. There are fewer festivals, flea markets, and open air events. But that doesn’t mean that we all need to reach into our wallets in order to have a good time in the winter. With a little creativity and preparation, there are lots of fun, frugal activities to do in the winter time.

What’s your favourite frugal winter activity?

Tips to Tackle Clutter Before Christmas

Tips to Tackle Clutter Before ChristmasChristmas is fast approaching and with it, the promise of more stuff. More presents, more decorations, more hostess gifts, more of everything!

With the weather starting to turn sour in many parts of North America, there’s no time like the present to get ahead of my clutter before the holiday season jams my 400 sq. ft. house with stuff.

Have No Space, Will Declutter

I’m probably more motivated than most to declutter. I live in a 400 sq. ft. house with about two small closets and a wall of shelving in the laundry room. I have no kitchen cupboards to speak of and a single book case. Needless to say, space is at a premium at my place.

Which means, now that I’m inside more and spending less time taking care of the yard, I’m going to tackle a few areas of my house that have been getting out of hand. It’s always slightly scary taking on organizational projects.

I’m not sure about you, but I have the nasty tendency to start cleaning one area of my house, say, the closet. Half-way through that little project I move some things to the book case and think “While I’m here…” and begin to organize that.

Before I know it I’m sitting on the floor surrounded by a sea of stuff I’ve dragged out.  It’s 10 o’clock, I’ve finished off the better part of a bottle of wine and I’m starting to think about how comfy my bed is….I convince myself I’ll finish it tomorrow, and walk around that pile for a week, before I shove the entire thing under my bed.

This has been my plan of attack for about the past five years or so and it’s only recently that I’ve actually began to develop some real skills in the decluttering arena. Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up recently, that’ve helped me stay (moderately) organized.

Start Small, Stay On Task

While it may be tempting to get up one morning and say “I’m going to organize the ENTIRE garage today!”, if you aren’t an organizational pro with oodles of insatiable motivation, that could be a recipe for an even more disorganized and dysfunctional garage.

Instead, pick something small, like the closet. Even better, something smaller, like the top shelves of the closet. Once you’re done that tiny project, if you’re still got the decluttering itch, feel free to pick something else out. If not, pat yourself on the back, and call it a day. It’s better to have one small, completed project every Saturday than one large, half assed one.

Start With the Old Stuff

It’s easiest for me to declutter when I tackle the boxes I haven’t opened in years.

Besides it being a fun little trip down memory lane, I can start the whole project out with the mindset of “I don’t need anything in any of these boxes, because I haven’t touched them in years”. Deciding what I actually need and what I don’t can be tough sometimes, so going into a project knowing that’s not even a factor in my decision making process makes the whole thing easier.

Take a Picture It’ll Last Longer

This last tip I actually picked up from the Everyday Minimalist, and it’s helped me and some friends of mine countless times. There are some cases when I’m decluttering, that I’ll come across something that is broken, or that I’ll never actually, realistically use again.

This item might be a broken necklace that I received as a gift many years ago, a childhood book that’s near to my heart, something along those lines. In those situations, I want the memory of the item, without a physical thing to take up premium space in my house.

In those situations, I’ll set the item next to a window where I have good light, and take several pictures of it from every angle. Since it’s really the idea of the item I’m attached to, those pictures will immortalize it for me enough, the physical item is no longer necessary. After that, I’m free to toss the item or donate it, without worrying that I’ll forget that it ever existed.

I’ve been using that method of getting rid of stuff for about the past year, with great results. I’ve ditched childhood toys, drawings, essays, report cards, and jewellery that my fiancé gave me nine years ago when we first met. You name it, I’ve ditched it without every worrying that I’ll forget about it. I keep a folder on my computer for the memories, and I back it up through flickr.

So take advantage of this relative lull before the crazy rush of Christmas, get your financial and actual house in order by organizing and decluttering.

But don’t forget! Just because you have all of this new found space, doesn’t mean that’s a license to fill it back up with stuff!

Do you need to declutter? What’s your goal?


Habits to Kick in Your 20s

Habits to Kick in Your 20sHey everyone! I’m still in Vegas, short post today.

Awhile back, I made a post talking about habits to kick in your 20s. I’ve been thinking about these a lot lately, because some of these I am still extremely guilty for doing, and I’ve been feeling even more guilty.

Of course the things that I’m guilty enough are not only the things on this list. I should be dedicating more time to myself (such as doing pilates or yoga), spending time with family, and not stressing about every little thing as to where it eats me alive.

1. Tanning. GUILTY
I have been NOT guilty for quite some time, but for around the past 2 weeks I have been tanning again. Not a lot, I’ve only gone twice. I’ve just been feeling extremely sickly looking.

This is something that I definitely need to stop. I’m making a promise to myself to not tan again. If I’m feeling pale, or unhappy with the way I look, I will start to use brightening lotion.

2.  Having credit cards with high limits but not making enough money. NOT GUILTY
I’m still not guilty of this. We do have more credit cards then when I last made this post though. I think then, we only had 1, whereas now we have 3 between the 2 of us. I do find that we have been spending a little more than usual, which is why we started to use more cash.

3. Smoking. NOT GUILTY
I still do not smoke of course. The boy has been slowly stopping as well. This is good for multiple reasons: his health, and we’ve also been saving on the cost of cigarettes. He was spending over $20 a week on cigarettes, which definitely adds up quickly!

4. Shopping. GUILTY
While I haven’t been spending a lot lately, I also haven’t been buying quality items. I’m still going to Forever21 and other stores. Soon, I need to buy some more clothing for work (I’m tired of wearing the same things all the time), and I would like to buy better quality items for that.

5. Expensive drinking.  EHHHH
If I don’t go out, then I don’t spend anything of course, but if I go out, then it’s a whole different story. Hopefully Vegas doesn’t kill this habit :) But of course I’m going to guess that I will be spending a lot on this area.

6. Depending on your significant other. NOT GUILTY 
We definitely are not dependent on each other. Yes, I still need to show him multiple things. I don’t think he has any account numbers memorized, neither has he ever really paid any of the bills himself. This is something that I’ve always done. However, if something were to happen to me, I have no clue what he would do.

7. Not having a budget. EHHH
Yes, we do have a budget, but we haven’t tracked any of the categories in forever. We should be doing this. We are still making more than we spend, but I would like to see where everything is coming in and how we’re actually doing.

What habits are you working on?

What’s NOT in my Purse?

I cleaned out my purse the other day. A ton of garbage came out of it. I filled up a whole shopping bag full of papers, candy wrappers and other junk.

And the bad personal finance blogger in me: I also found information that is not safe to have in my purse. I found a car loan application that I filled out from the other week. Why oh why did I still have it in my purse?

I filled the application all the way out, and then I asked the dealership if they could beat my credit union’s rate. They said they most likely couldn’t since it was really low. I then asked for the loan application back so that it wasn’t just floating around at the dealership.

While I thought I was doing the smart thing by asking for it back, all I did was throw it in my purse. And I forgot about it until just the other day. So that means for around a whole week, I had my whole life written on a piece of paper: my income, address, social security number and so on.

I’m glad I found it before I lost it or just tossed it into the trash like any other garbage! I shredded the application and now have no worries.

Read my identify theft post here if you haven’t.

What you should not have in your purse or wallet:

1.  Something with your social security number on it. 
This could be your actual social security card, a loan application that you filled out, etc. Maybe you have a little note in your wallet so that you can remember what your SSN is? Yeah, probably not a good idea.

I have a friend (I have mentioned this before) who puts her Social Security card right where her license should go. So when she opens up her wallet, what do you see? Not her license, you get to see her SSN! What a great idea. She doesn’t think this is a bad idea.

I’m not sure if all states used to do this (or if any still do), but up until a couple of years ago the state that I live in used to use your social security number as your license number. I always thought this was the most ridiculous thing ever! So if you lost your wallet, someone automatically has your SSN, address, your picture, etc.

2. List of all of your account numbers.
This can be with or without the routing numbers. Surprisingly, a lot of people do this. This should be a given that it is not a good idea.

All someone would have to do is link this to your name (which is probably in your wallet also) and BAM they have an all access pass to everything in your life.

3. List of your passwords. 
I have probably 5 different passwords that I use for all of my main accounts. Yes while it does get annoying that sometimes I have to enter multiple passwords in order to log in, it is much better than carrying around a list that says all of your usernames and the passwords that correspond with it.

4. Carrying too much cash or credit cards. 
I usually don’t carry any cash. I’m always afraid of losing it or it getting stolen. I do however carry all of my credit cards. I don’t have too many, but  I’m sure if I had 10 credit cards, I would not risk carrying them all and having them all stolen.

Have you ever had something stolen?
What else would you not keep in your purse?