the barefoot budget

unconventional grit for a mindful life


Eat Yo Veggies

First off, let me say, I got to have Romanesco broccoli for the first time in my life at my parents house last month. This veggie was MADE FOR ME – a math loving vegetarian. I’d been looking for it for years and never was able to find it for a reasonable price. My mom and I found it at Whole Foods in the local produce section!! It lived up to it’s reptuation – nutty, wonderful crunchy texture, and beautiful. C’mon, IT’S A LIME GREEN FRACTAL!

I was talking to a coworker today about diet and they said, ‘you can’t expect someone to eat pounds of vegetables every day!!’ Um, I eat pounds of vegetables, fruits, and legumes everyday. I don’t know how to explain this to people without sounding pompous or pretentious. Eating your veggies shouldn’t be pretentious!

But the sad truth is that most Americans don’t eat their veggies. Veggies are pathetic little sides or non-existent on their plates. Many times, the veggies are highly processed or drenched in butter, fat, oil, cheese, etc. Often, these people come to me asking for diet advice, usually knowing that I’ve lost weight and kept it off. Back then, veggies were side dishes for me too. And like any change that lasts, it took years for me to re-learn how to eat.

I don’t want people to be intimidated by a whole foods diet and feel like it’s out of reach for them. So often, folks think of diet as ‘all or nothing.’ Which is scary, because under this notion small slip ups are punished and folks get discouraged and quit. I eat whole foods 80% of the time and vegan 50% of the time. But you know what, after dinner tonight I ate two – two! – peanut butter chocolate chip cookies choc full of white flour and butter. Hey, at least I bought organic flour and butter!

Old Christine would have beat myself up over this, but you know what? Life is meant to be enjoyed. I find great enjoyment in eating whole foods most of the time, because it gives me energy, vitality, and hope. It makes me feel more alive and confident in myself and my choices. But on the other side of the spectrum, a life without gelato and beer is not a life worth living in my books. Having these things as occasional treats makes them all the more enjoyable for me.

Eat your veggies and you might feel the benefits. Start small by adding something dark and green to your plate. Cook it simply with a bit of olive oil and some pepper. Eat it slowly. That’s how I started. I know it sounds ridiculous, but I honestly started noticing how much better the veggies made me feel than the cheese and carbs. I felt lighter and stronger. So I naturally started putting more and more veggies on my plate and removing most of the dairy and some of the carbs.

Notice how you feel!


Football Witch

This is a picture of my desk, and this picture is the epitome of me.

A few weeks back, I cut, washed, and hung big bundles of mint and nettle to dry. I like to hang them all over the house for fragrance. Seeing them all over evokes that nice witchy feeling and feels cozy in our small space – like herbs are stuffed into every corner.
After a few weeks of drying, the herbs turn brittle and are ready to be put up. I make a space on my messy desk to separate leaves and buds from tough stems, then to crumble all the medicinal plant parts into labeled mason jars that go onto my makeshift apothecary.

My apothecary is a shelf in the middle of our beautiful oak bookshelf, and it somehow feels right that the herbs are nestled between VHS tapes of the Matrix and The Blues Brothers, but also The Critique of Pure Reason and Harry Potter. It’s me. It’s us.

My fantasy football lineup serves as my altar for harnessing my herbs. Alongside sit everything from my heavily highlighted and dog eared copy of The Encyclopedia of Country Living to coloring books to black metal stickers to old issues of Audobon and National Geographic that I use for making collages. All the while I’m singing along to the supreme pop of Ruby the Rabbitfoot. There is nothing solemn about it but it fees sacred in my own special way.

I’ve spent a lot of energy in my life comparing myself to others, especially via the internet. Other people have always seemed to have it more together than me, and their lives have seemed more beautiful and happy in general. I am trying to stop thinking this way by celebrating the unique things that make me – me. My home doesn’t look like it’s out of a Tumblr blog and my garden doesn’t look like a magazine cover. My spaces aren’t perfect or Instagram-worthy. But they are mine. They feel like mine, and they reflect the unique person that I am. After all, there’s only one football witch.


The Natural Progression, or Getting My Life Back

To me, the heart of homesteading is regaining control over my life – control over what I consume, control over my impact on this planet, and control over how I spend my time. I’m 27 and I’m transitioning from a Standard American Lifestyle to a self-reliant lifestyle. I’ve been stuck in the middle for two years now, only an infant in this journey to retire early, live off the land, and teach others how to live simply, sustainably, and in sync with the environment. Days are long, full, and stressful, attempting to balance the lifestyle I want with the demands of my paid employment, relationship, and personal health. I’m still learning and having growing pains, and I hope to one day be able to stabilize the balance. Because the problem is, once you take up this lifestyle, there’s no going back. At least for me there’s not.

There’s a natural progression to this lifestyle, a progression that has no end goal or pinnacle. I want to talk about bread because I LOVE bread. I used to buy a loaf of store-bought bread every week and I didn’t dare read the ingredient label because ignorance is bliss. One Christmas, my mom gave me a bread machine. I started cranking out loaves of white bread on a regular basis. I loved my bread machine for a couple years – it was easy, no fuss, and I got to see the ingredients for myself. But the loaves always came out kinda misshapen and bland. I decided to venture into homemade bread, kneaded by hand and baked in the oven. I used the cheapest flour I could find, which usually came in $5/ 50 pound bags from Costco. As much as I wanted homemade bread for taste, I also wanted to save a buck.

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Midwestern Vacation

This past week, we trouped to northern Michigan for the annual Eriksen family reunion! Although it was A LOT (14 hours each way) of driving, we handled it like champs and made the trip up and back in four days.

In between the driving we found all sorts of fun to get into. On the way up, we stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park and took a cave tour + a wonderful hike along the Green River. We stayed at the campground and enjoyed our favorite camp dinner of roasted veggies and Field Roast sausages. The next day, we visited two breweries – Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, MI on the way up, and then met my family at Perrin Brewing in Grand Rapids, MI. Saturday brought family hikes on greenways along rivers and another brewery – Rockford Brewing Company in Rockford, MI. After lunch + beers, Andrew and I laid in the grass at the riverfront park, him napping while I laid my head on his chest and watched the crowds. Saturday night of the reunion is always good food, good drinks (homemade wine and WHISKEY from my uncle!) and lots and lots of euchre. Southerners – love ’em, but they do not know how to play cards. Sunday we began the sojourn home, stopping at the Indiana Sand Dunes National Seashore where we saw the skyline of Chicago from across Lake Michigan. Afterwards, we picked up one of my best friends from college across the border and headed to Three Floyds Brewing Company for hoppy beer and lots of laughs. Then we drove the grueling 11 hours home.

Four breweries, two hikes, one cave, and lots of time with the people I love. I call that a win. Times like these make me miss my people so badly. I’ve never been able to connect with folks and make close friends in Athens (besides Andrew of course). Most of my family is hundreds of miles away, with my closest friends either hundreds or thousands of miles away. I’m trying to cherish the time we have together, but it often makes me sad, even depressed. I feel heavy this week. But I keep thinking of the past weekend and giggling at the good memories. Sometimes, that’s the best you can do.


On Expensive Material Possessions

One of the misconceptions I get from a lot of folks when I share our lifestyle and savings rate is – ‘wow, y’all must live like paupers! I could never live like you! I could never give up x, y, z.’ HA. Please, never get the impression that we live on the cheap. We just bought a THREE HUNDRED dollar water filter last week. There it is in the picture, all shiny and new! Did I mention we’re also going on a caving adventure this weekend to the tune of almost $200? And that Andrew just bought over $150 worth of books about mushrooms?

There’s a huge difference between being frugal and being cheap, and I think when most folks encounter frugal heroes their mind immediately assumes, “these people are cheap.” This assumption is driven by the inherent consumerism and materialism in our culture. We are taught from a young age to measure everything from self-worth to success to even happiness in terms of dollars and possessions. We’ve made a sport out of ‘shopping’ – so many Americans feel the best way to spend time with loved ones and amuse themselves is by going out and buying shit. Our lives are a never-ending race to fill our oversized homes with as many possessions and knick knacks as possible. When one knick knack falls out of fashion or becomes obsolete, we toss it and run to the store to buy another one to replace it.

Frugal heroes choose not to play this game, and thus are seen as subversive by mainstream America. This leads to a perception that we are somehow ‘lacking’ the experience of buying shit,  giving us the label of ‘cheap.’ However, cheapness and frugality are two entirely different things.

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