Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

Simply Living has been on extended hiatus once again!  Here is a wrap up of 2016!

We began 2016 embarking on a Debt Snowball as we worked to pay down our existing debt while searching for the perfect home.  Dave Ramsey provided most of our foundation.  We listed our debts from smallest to biggest and delighted in watching the snowball grow.

We had 8 steady months of paying down our debt.  We were able to eliminate 2 student loans, 2 credit cards and a car loan.  A total of $18,412!  That sure felt like an accomplishment.

As we paid down our existing debt, what we were able to afford for a house continued to grow.  In September we were excited to finally have an offer accepted, and we closed on our first home in November!  This did mean that we had to pause our debt snowball, but I’m proud of what we were able to accomplish in our short 8 months.

During 2016 my husband and I both started new jobs and we completed our first Whole30.  Two really big personal achievements!  We celebrated with a week long cruise around the Caribbean in August.

We ended 2016 in our new home surrounded by stripped wallpaper, new floors and too many paint cans to count.

This year we are extremely excited that our family will be expanding and we will be able to welcome our first child, a son!  We have numerous house projects under way, some big, some small and some very unexpected.  All significantly more expensive than we had planned.  Things are moving and life is happening quickly!

We are back to scrubbing our budget, particularly with a new house, new baby on the way, and a maternity leave around the corner, we are having to be creative in finding ways to make our finances balance.  While we might not be able to put everything into a debt snowball right now, we have learned many ways to be frugal and stretch our paychecks while preventing taking on additional debt.  I’m confident that these skills will help us through the tightest times.

Stick around to see what 2017 has in store for us!

School Lunchbox Ideas

Now that the school year is off to a start perhaps you are looking for new lunch ideas for your child.  Do you have a picky eater? Trying to branch out from sandwiches and mix up their lunch box repertoire? After working in Early Education for many years I have come up with many healthy and nut free options, since most schools are now nut free.  Here are just a few (please remember that based on the age of your child you will need to cut/slice food to appropriate size):

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Lunch Box Ideas
  • Grilled Cheese
  • Rice Cakes and Sun Butter
  • Deli Meat Rollup
  • Pasta (Tortellini, mac and cheese, spaghetti, etc.)
  • mini waffles or pancakes
  • muffins
  • Pita with hummus
  • Sweet and Sour Kielbasa
  • Quesadilla

Pair these main options with:

  • Yogurt
  • Fresh Fruit
  • Steamed veggies
  • Cheese Stick
  • Cottage Cheese
  • 3 bean salad
  • Tabouli
  • Yogurt covered pretzels
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Avocado slices

Why not pack your own lunch at the same time!  You’ll definitely feel like you are eating healthier and saving more money than ordering lunch every day.  Leftovers from dinner the night before are also great lunch ideas!

What was in your lunch box today?

Here are some of our favorite lunch boxes – amazon links:


Our Favorite Smoothies

When looking for a quick grab and go breakfast or a protein packed snack a smoothie is something we often forget, but is super simple and takes little to no time!

My number one favorite smoothie is the green monster, you can see my exact recipe here.   It contains frozen peaches, frozen pinapple, a banana, spinach and orange juice.

Simply Living Green Monster Smoothie
The makings of a Green Monster smoothie

At this point I have made it so many times I don’t use measurements, but just eyeball it.  It’s a great way to get some leafy greens in, without even tasting it.  It may look green, but it tastes just like banana and pineapple.  This would be a great way to get your kids to eat some spinach!

Simply Living Green Monster Smoothie
The delicious Green Monster

My second favorite smoothie is the one we made during our Whole30 here.  This one contains banana, almond butter and coconut milk.  That’s it!  

8.3 Whole30 Breakfast
Almond Butter Banana Smoothie

Again, I don’t really use measurements, just more of an eyeball.  If I don’t like the consistency I just add a little extra coconut milk to loosen it up, or more banana to thicken it.  Since typically the 3 ingredients are room temperature, you can add a little ice if you would like to make it nice and frosty.  Packed with protein and good nutrients, but not a good idea around children with nut allergies!

My last go to smoothie is a triple berry smoothie. I like to use raspberry, blueberry and strawberry.  Pop them in a blender with a banana, a handful of hidden spinach, a scoop of vanilla yogurt and a splash of almond milk.  So delicious and beautifully colored!   

If you’re looking for an extra protein punch you can also always add in a scoop of your favorite protein powder.  I love that there are so many ways to get in fruits and veggies, and it’s nice to mix up the liquid.  A little OJ when you need extra vitamin C, or perhaps Coconut Milk or Almond milk of you are looking for a lower fat dairy free option.  The options are limitless!

Another tip is to stock up on fruit when it is on sale and freeze, then it’s ready to go!  We make baggies ahead of time of the fruits we need, then when we are ready to make a smoothie we empty a packet into the blender, add some leafy greens, our liquid of choice and you are ready to blend.

 These days we use our nutribullet. which was a wedding gift.  I think it’s great for making single servings when you are literally on the go.  If you use a single serving cup, you can just take off the blade and attach a lid and you take the whole thing with you.  They also have larger attachments if we are planning to share.  We also find that it is way easier to clean than trying to stick your hand inside a large blender without getting cut on the blade.  We highly recommend it!

What are your favorite recipes?

Our Debt Snowball – August

8 months = $18,412.37 in debt paid off

In January of this year we started our Debt Snowball, partially following Dave Ramsey’s method.  To see the beginning of our journey click here.  This was the year that we hoped to find our home, so by paying down our existing debt we knew we would be able to afford more house.

We are still on Step 2, which can last for months, even years.  During this step,  you make a list of all of your debts from smallest to largest.  You don’t pay attention to interest rates or anything other than total pay off amount.  Then, you tackle the smallest debt first.  You make the minimum payment on everything except for that smallest debt.  On the smallest debt you scrounge around and scrub your budget, every extra dollar gets put onto that debt, until it is paid off in full.  Once you have tackled one, then you move on to the second smallest debt.

In these past 8 months we have been able to pay off 2 student loans, 2 credit cards and a car loan.  Let’s just reflect on that for a minute…5 monthly payments eliminated!  Some months we are able to contribute more, other months are tight and we contribute very little.  But every small bit adds up, so it still feels good.

This month we contributed $1,855 to the debt snowball and then added an additional $2,000 from savings.  Normally we don’t tap into our savings since that is our house down payment, but this month was a little different.

Since it has been 8 months, and we are starting to get serious about starting our house search again, it was time to re-evaluate our current monthly payments.  After checking in with our balances, I realized that what we were currently putting the “snowball” towards was not the smallest balance.  We had a student loan, which had a monthly payment of $262, with only a $2,753 balance left.  By taking the money out of savings, we were able to eliminate that loan completely, meaning that monthly we are now adding $262 into our snowball.

Now that we have re-evaluated what the balances of our remaining debts are, we have a new game plan of what to attack first.  But again, let’s reflect.  We have eliminated 5 debts!  We have paid off $18,412 in debt!  It’s amazing and rewarding to see it working.  Each month we see that amount grow and grow and it becomes that much more motivating.

September will be a tricky one for us.  My husband returns to work after labor day, with a 3 week unpaid hiatus.   He is also returning to a job that does not pay as much as his previous monthly income.  But we are rolling with it, and reminding ourselves that even if we only contribute a little bit each month, it is getting us that much closer to financial freedom.  At least until we sign that mortgage!

Some tips we like to remember when times are tight:

  1. Eat at home instead of in restaurants
  2. Make meal plans so we are spending less and using all of the food we purchase
  3. Pack our lunches for work
  4. After receiving a paycheck pay all the bills upfront that are due before the next pay period to avoid annoying late fees or over draft fees
  5. Only use our bank ATM’s to avoid transaction fees
  6. Eliminate credit card charges, use only cash on hand.  If we don’t have it, then we can’t afford it!
  7. Maintain our $1,000 emergency fund for true emergencies
  8. Make a budget and stick to it!

8 months = $18,412.37 in debt paid off

Stuff I like Sunday

We are throwing it way back for an edition of “Stuff I like Sunday”!  This is not a sponsored post, but may contain affiliate links.

While on vacation I was finally able to read some books for pleasure.  I read and really enjoyed The Lovely Bones.  I’m interested to see the movie now, as it also received fairly good reviews.  Any time that there is a movie based off of a book I like to try reading the book first, we will see how this one lives up to the real story!

Once I finished the Lovely Bones I have just started begun It Starts with Food.  Even though we just finished our first Whole30 (check out our thoughts here) we never actually read the book.  I’m excited to dig into it now and see if I learn anything else new and interesting.

Even though we are done with the Whole30 I am loving keeping up with our Banana, coconut milk and almond butter smoothies.  They taste too good to be that healthy!

There are two apps that we are loving.  The first one is called Meal Planner, and we just have the free version.  It lets me create our meals for the week, breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks.  I can then create shopping lists and share the menu.  During the Whole30 this was especially great because I was able to just email the week of meals to my husband and he had easy access on his phone for what to expect.

The second app I’m loving is a puzzle game called “Six!”.  It’s mindless, challenging, and fun!

Currently we are also loving the TV show “The Night Of” which we stream through HBO Go.  This week is the season finale, I don’t want it to end!  It was the perfect amount of suspense and mystery.  And we already love crime shows, so it was great.

My sister and I also recently gave each other a gift subscription to BirchBox.  I’ve received 2 of my 3 boxes and have enjoyed a few products out of each box.  It’s exciting to receive something in the mail and be surprised by what it contains.  It’s also a great way to try new products before committing to paying full price.

What are you currently loving?