How I Simplified Our Home and Became More Content

simplified home

Guest post by Sarah of The Jelly Jars

Over the course of the last year, my husband and I have completely rewritten our life plans, moved away from the city we thought we would retire in, said goodbye to our best friends, gave away 1/3 of our possessions, and downsized our living situation from a 2600 square foot home to a 900 square foot apartment as we pursue this new dream.

The biggest surprise for me in this whole journey has been how much I’ve loved downsizing!

Here is what I have learned in the process:

1. I only own what I love.

In cutting down on our possessions, we asked a lot of questions. Did the item have great value – was it of high quality, an investment that we made? Did the piece have great sentimental worth – were we tied to it because of family history or special memories? Did the item serve a specific purpose – does it serve a necessary function in our home?

If an item met certain criteria, we kept it. If not, it was donated.

2. I don’t need as much as I think I do.

Because of this process of downsizing, I realized I had accumulated so much stuff without even realizing it. Our basement was filled with boxes of decorations and extra clothes and anything I wanted to hold on to “just in case I need it one day.”

But now, without these extra items, I realize that I am still content and still can live a full and joy-filled life because life is not made full by material possessions.

How I Simplified My Life & Became More Content

3. I opened up room in my life for things that mattered.

I am no longer worried about that season’s trends or decorations or the fact that I need a better mail organizer.

My heart is less tied to material possessions and is now more available to the little gifts that I see in our moments and sprinkled throughout our days.

4. I gained perspective.

It’s so easy to compare yourself against advertisements or movies or even your neighbors and friends, thinking you need more and more to keep up. But when I looked at our possessions with a different perspective, I saw how very much we have and that we actually are very well taken care of.

Once I silenced the driving need to keep up with friends or commercials, I have been able to find contentment with what we already have rather than being discontent with what I wish my life looked like.

The process of simplifying helped me to clean out our home yes, but even more so it helped bring about a new way of thinking for us.

Now we are much less apt to buy something without truly evaluating if it is worth it to us or if it is just a purchase to satisfy a short-term desire, and we have found much more contentment through no longer buying into the belief that we always need more.

Sarah is a mountain-loving, dark chocolate-eating, Frank Sinatra-listening, owie-kissing, truth-telling, freelance writer/blogger who seeks out a passionate life with her husband and two kiddos. She writes at The Jelly Jars.

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6 Ways We’re Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low — Without Using Coupons

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low Without Using Coupons

So, I figure it’s high time I let you in on something that’s changed for us this past year. Some of you have probably already guessed this was the case. Some of you might be shocked and disappointed.

But regardless, I need to come clean about it. Because I don’t want you to assume something is the case when it isn’t.

So here’s the truth: I’ve basically not clipped or used any coupons on groceries this past year.

Nope. Nada. Zilch.

I had slowly been easing out of “extreme couponing” the past few years as life picked up its pace, we baby-stepped our way to fewer processed foods, and I fell madly in love with Aldi.

Then we moved to TN and lost our wonderful full-time assistant/babysitter. I had every intention of getting back into couponing, but with all of the transition and processing involved in moving + writing another book, Jesse ended up taking over most of the grocery shopping and cooking for us.

I would have never seen my husband as someone who would rock out as a chef (when we got married, I’m not even sure that he knew how to make toast!), but the guy has taken to the kitchen like white on rice.

In fact, he now runs circles around me when it comes to recipes. He loves experimenting with new ingredients and spices and he finds great delight in cooking things that require many pans and steps… which is the complete opposite of me!

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low

As a result, we more than doubled our grocery budget and we eat much healthier. However, we’ve still found many ways to keep our grocery budget relatively low without using coupons and while eating a diet comprised of lots of quality, whole foods.

I’ve been surprised and excited that we’re able to eat very healthfully for our family of 5 and only spend an average of $100 to $120 per week.

Here’s what’s working for us:

1. Shop at Aldi

I know I’ve sung the praises of Aldi over and over again, but I cannot help but include them on this list. When Jesse first started doing the shopping, I encouraged him to try doing most of the shopping at Aldi and then just shopping at Kroger for anything he couldn’t get at Aldi.

It took a few weeks of suggesting it, but he finally tried it. And he came home all stoked exclaiming, “I saved SO much money by shopping at Aldi!”

He’s now a diehard Aldi fan. Which is just one more reason to love him all the more. :)

6 Ways We're Saving Money on Groceries Without Using Coupons

Aldi has introduced so many new features and products in the last few years, including gluten-free foods, organic foods, and more. If you have an Aldi nearby, I cannot stress enough how much you need to go check them out. Just do it and maybe soon you’ll be singing their praises along with us!

2. Keep It Simple

While Jesse continues to add in new recipes to our weekly rotation, we still keep a lot of things very simple.

Breakfast is usually oatmeal, bacon & eggs, or cereal. Lunch is often sandwiches or leftovers. Dinner is usually just a main dish and veggies of some sort. Sometimes, we’ll throw in a side of fruit or sweet potatoes, too, but we’re good with just having a few options at dinner time. It saves time and money — and makes for less food waste.

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3. Eat Up Your Leftovers

Speaking of food waste, one thing we work hard to do is to use up leftovers or to re-use leftovers in a creative fashion. We’ll often have leftovers for lunch and, if there are quite a few different leftovers, we’ll serve a Leftover Smorgasbord for dinner one night.

Our philosophy: why make new food when you have food still in the fridge waiting to be used up? Save yourself cooking time and money and eat that instead. :)

4. Make Things From Scratch

We don’t buy many boxed or canned foods these days. We slowed weaned ourselves off of them over the past few years and now we not only love homemade so much more, it also saves us money.

Plus, since we keep our means simple and Jesse and I both help out with the kitchen/cooking, it really doesn’t take a lot of extra time to make things from scratch.

6 Ways We Keep Our Grocery Budget Low

5. Cook With Inexpensive Ingredients

As I mentioned earlier, we keep food pretty simple. We do buy higher quality ingredients, but we stick to recipes that use (mostly!) inexpensive ingredients — and mostly ones that can be purchased from Aldi.

We eat a lot of eggs, sweet potatoes, oats, fruits and veggies that are in season, beans, chicken, and some beef and pork. Those are the basic staples that many of our meals include. Jesse does branch out and try new recipes, but he usually only buys a few new ingredients every week. The rest of the ingredients are things we may already have on hand or things that we routinely buy at Aldi.

6 Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bill

6. Pay for Specialty Foods With Swagbucks

We do buy a few specialty ingredients — such as protein powder, Trim-Healthy-Mama approved sweeteners, and olive oil — and we get these with Amazon using gift cards earned through Swagbucks. It’s a great way to be able to afford a few of those high-quality ingredients we love to use in recipes.

6 Ways We're Keeping Our Grocery Budget Low Without Using Coupons

How do YOU keep your grocery budget low?

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How a Family of 4 Happily Lives in 700 Sq. Ft. Home

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After I posted the guest post on Why I Like My Smaller House, Roni left a comment talking about how their family of 4 lives in a 650-square-foot home. I was intrigued and asked if she’d do a post on it sometime.

I loved the post she put together giving us a very thorough walk-through of their small home and how they make it work. It’s inspiring and if you are currently living in a small space or you are thinking of downsizing to a smaller space, be sure to read it here.

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5 Blessings That Have Come From a Tight Budget

Frugal

Guest post from Rachel of The Purposeful Wife

Forced frugality often feels like a bad thing. Making cutbacks, adhering to a tight grocery budget, and preparing all of your meals at home isn’t always fun.

Yet many blessings accompany frugal living. I’ve learned so much as my husband and I have tried to get out of debt and grow our savings. Here are just a few of the lessons gleaned:

1. Often the frugal choice is healthier.

Most of the “green” changes I’ve made in our home were in an effort to save money. Making my own yogurt, cleaning supplies, and pantry staples are easier on my wallet and healthier for my family.

Last year I started washing my face with the Oil Cleansing Method. While it is all-natural and feels super luxurious, it also costs mere pennies to make. Frugality for the win!

2. Frugality births creativity.

I knit scrubbies for washing our dishes instead of buying sponges. I can prepare rice and beans in an infinite number of ways. I’ve scored fabulous finds at the thrift store. I make most of our Christmas gifts.

All of these endeavors have expanded my homemaking and crafting abilities.

3. Frugality curbs wastefulness.

My fridge is usually pretty bare, by choice. Each week I purchase only the fresh ingredients needed for my meal plan, and very little of our food gets thrown out. We also wear our clothing until it is worn out, and then cut it up for cleaning rags or crafts.

4. Frugality shapes character.

Thinking so much about how I spend our money, always being on the hunt for a new DIY project, and frequently trying to trim our budget has made me mindful.

I’m more disciplined and self-controlled than I used to be — though I still have room to grow!

5. Frugality can be the training ground of contentment.

It is easy to think wistfully over what we don’t have. But as Crystal recently pointed out, we’re a lot wealthier than we realize. Not having everything we want, exactly when we want it can teach us to rely on God for our needs, and to be thankful for what we have. We choose how to respond to our circumstances: will we grow bitter and resentful, or learn to be content?

My husband and I often discuss how if we’d started marriage with a large income, we probably would have spent recklessly and taken it for granted. Not having it all right away has been one of our biggest blessings.

If the Lord hasn’t given it to us, clearly we do not need it. With greater income comes greater responsibility. Today’s limited finances are the training grounds of our financial future.

Even if our income tripled tomorrow, I would still shop at Aldi, meal plan religiously, and collect Swagbucks. These are some of the things I’ve grown to appreciate on our frugal journey, and I wouldn’t trade them!

Rachel has been married to her husband Niall for 6 and a half years. They live with their two children in frigid Northeast Pennsylvania, where she likes to drink tea, read lots of good books, and dabble in blogging. She writes about faith, homemaking, motherhood, and marriage at The Purposeful Wife.

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10 Things I Learned From Downsizing Our Life

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I posted about Small House Living earlier this week and introduced you to Lori and her family of six who are currently living in an RV. The comments on that post were quite lively and there were lots of pros and cons shared for both living in a small house and having a larger house.

Lori posted a follow-up post yesterday called 10 Things I Have Learned By Downsizing Our Life. I think you’ll find it very interesting and insightful — at least I know that I did. Head over here to read it.

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