Tuesday, August 18, 2015

5 Resources That Can Replace a Gym Membership



My wife and I generally like being active and really enjoying hiking, biking, walking, and swimming together. As part of my health journey I decided to get in better shape for a better quality of life and hopefully longevity. My whole life, or at least life that I can remember, I have struggled with obesity. After eating a primarily plant based and whole food diet for a couple of years and using some of the resources listed in this post I am in the best shape/health of my life and I hope to continue this journey. When I decided to get in shape I did not want to pay a monthly gym membership (what kind of frugal blogger would I be if I did?!) and started looking for alternatives. The list in this post is a combination of resources that my wife and I use and have found useful for us.



1. C25K - This app helps those who are not accustomed to running prepare for a 5K. The C25K stands for Couch to 5K and it truly scaffolds runs in order to accomplish this. You can find C25K in the Google Play store or in the Apple Store for your smart phones or iPods. It tells you when to run and walk and gradually, week by week, it challenges you to run a little farther. It starts as simple as having you run a minute and then walk a minute and so on. The intervals are achievable and it doesn't let you push yourself too hard. I personally do not enjoy running, and still do not love it, but this app kept me on track and gave me achievable goals. Through the use of this app and a lot of determination and encouragement I have ran a 5K twice and run 1 to 2 miles 3 or 4 times a week. Before using this app I had not run long distance for almost 10 years. (Hint: when getting serious about running footwear becomes very important. I personally love my Brooks and would recommend them to anyone looking for a sturdy trainer. Keep them affordable by buying online or watching for deals at your local running store. A couple of years ago my wife bought 4 pairs of the Brooks because they were $30 off...shoes don't go bad you know!)



2. Hasfit - Hasfit is a fitness organization (for lack of a better term) that specializes in workout videos and meal plans (For some healthy and frugal recipes check out our recipes page on the blog). It stands for Heart and Soul Fitness. Both my wife and I enjoy using these videos to work out. All you need is a device that can play Youtube from the internet (which I assume you do if you are reading this) a space to do the exercises, and a couple of soup cans or weights if you have them. Coach Kozak does a great job motivating you in the videos and the videos range from beginner exercises to advance. I really enjoy the kickboxing videos and there are options in terms of times and difficulty as well. We generally use the Youtube channel and videos, but there are many more resources on the website. There really is an engaging workout for everyone, and enough diversity in terms of length and types of workouts that you should never get bored! Sometimes we have to base our fitness selection merely on the length of the workout which is easily displayed on youtube. (Hint: we generally do these in our living room and if you are like me at all you are a huge sweater! A workout mat can definitely be helpful when working out at home).



3. Fitness Blender - This is another Youtube channel / website that offers a variety of levels of fitness training. From beginner to advanced the techniques are easy to replicate and well explained. A lot of the training comes in the form of intervals which is proven to be a great way to burn fat in particular. The intervals mean that there are more active and less active parts of each workout. They also have a nice countdown feature so you know how much longer you have to do an exercise as well as a little preview of what is coming next so you can mentally prepare/try to figure out the movement ahead of time. (Hint: A lot of exercises can be made more intense by using some 2 lb weights).



4. The Library - This is a general tip, and your public library has so many resources that many do not use, but in the DVD/Blu-Ray section there are many workout videos that you can do. What is available of course is going to be dependent on the quality of your public library. The KDL branch in East Grand Rapids has a pretty good selection. If you are a person that loves reading there are also a lot of books about exercising as well. The best part is that every community should have a library or two and everything is free! (It is also a great place to take the kids! It is one of the hints in our blog post about being social once you have children!)



5. Running Clubs (includes list of some in GR) - Running clubs are a great way to get and keep in shape. They help hold you accountable and you can foster some great friendships through running with the same people every week. We personally do not belong to any but have friends that are active members and love them. There are also a variety of clubs in GR that range from one that meets at Founder's, runs steps/hills, and then gets a pint after to trail running to training for the 5th 3rd Riverbank Run. (Hint: if ever running in the dark it is a great idea to get some reflective clothing and/or a wearable light that shines forward and backward for safety)

Grand Rapids Running Club
Here is a link to all teams listed on the MapMyRun site: http://www.mapmyrun.com/us/grand-rapids-mi/groups

Thank you so much for taking time to read our humble blog. The feedback we have received has been amazing. Please make sure to comment with ways in which you are being frugal as well because we are still a work in progress and can learn from you! Also, if you have enjoyed blog posts we would appreciate if you shared them on social media or with friends who may be interested in the specific topics (or just the whole thing in general). Thanks again!

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Monday, August 10, 2015

10 Reasons Why I Love U-Pick Blueberries (recipes included)

1. Cheaper, duh! U-pick blueberries are one of the cheapest fruit you can buy except bananas! The farm I found was self-serve for only $1/lb, SCORE!
Blueberries at the store during peak season when they are on sale cost way more than that. For example, this week at Meijer they are on sale for 3 pints/$5. So we have to do some math
1 pint of blueberries = 3/4lb  
3 pints X 3/4lb = 1.5lb
1.5lb = $5
= $3.33/lb
Savings per lb=$2.33
Since I picked 42 lbs my total savings was 42 X $2.33= $98
if you want to be technical I need to subtract the cost of gas for driving 72 miles
so 72 miles at 25 mpg= 2.88 gallons X $2.44 = $7
$98-$7= total savings of $91 (and enough frozen blueberries for an entire year!)
2. They are delicious! enough said
3. You can talk directly to the farmer and find out how often they spray and when the last time they sprayed. The farm I found this year has not sprayed some of their berries in 60 days and other in 80 days! The farm I went to last year sprayed every other week :(
4. The feeling of accomplishment when you get done and you look at all of the berries you just picked.
My first picking= 34 lbs in 3 hours!
5. There’s just something about picking your own fruit right from the orchard...or maybe that is just me because I grew up on a farm and enjoy living off the land!


The biggest u-pick orchard I have ever seen!
6. It’s addictive. So much so that the second time I went picking this year my friend and I picked for an hour longer than we were supposed to and were late to the dinner party my friend was hosting, oops! You just can’t help but pick another berry because there are so many!
7. Having blueberries all year around! My son loves them right out of the freezer. They are kind of like mini popsicles!
8. Blueberries are one of the easiest fruits to freeze and use in your cooking because there is no peeling, pitting, coring, or cutting needed (like some of the other fruits I pick like strawberries, cherries, and pears). I wash my blueberries in a sink full of water with a splash of vinegar. Then I rinse really well and lay them out on a towel to dry before I placed them in quart size freezer bags.
9. You support local farmers while getting the freshest fruit possible.


10. The picking season is almost a month long so you go picking multiple times unlike some fruit like the organic cherries I picked this year which season was only 10 days (post to come about my experience with dehydrating cherries, yum!)
11. You can make yummy things like blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, and blueberry compote! See recipes below!

So where did I go picking this year you ask:
Schemenauer Farms
26980 CR 215
PO Box 147
Bangor, MI 49013-0147
269.214.0838 or 269-214-0837

and I loved it! The farmer yelled, “you’re a trooper” when he drove by the first time I went by myself when it was 95 degrees and the second time I went he came up to my friend and I and gave us a water bottle filled with fresh picked roses to take home. How awesome is that? He said next year he is going to try a spray free field but unfortunately he thinks he going to need to raise his prices :(

I have also read that Kendall Blueberries has naturally grown pesticide-free blueberries so I might try them next year.. I haven’t been able to get able of them but their voicemail states their prices are $1.25/lb.
Kendall’s Blueberries
Mon – Sun:  8:00 AM through 8:00 PM
2124 Coburn Road
Hastings, MI 49058
269-945-3735

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes
Servings: 2 people
Modified recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie recipe

These are one of the easiest pancakes I have ever made and they are delicious especially when eaten with my homemade blueberry compote!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/3 cup flour (ww pastry, white, spelt, or Bob’s gluten-free)
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats plus 4 tbsp rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp sugar or 2 packet stevia
  • 2/3 cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (optional, only if soaking)
  • 1-2 tablespoons flaxmeal, optional
Instructions
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then add wet. Mix, but don’t overmix. Cook on an oiled (or sprayed) pan, on low-medium, flipping each pancake once.  These take a little longer to cook than normal pancakes. Top with maple syrup, powdered sugar, or blueberry compote (my favorite!). We store our homemade blueberry compote in mason jars so we just put the jar on the skillet while we are cooking the pancakes to warm up the compote, yummmm, it is so delicious and way less sugar than straight maple syrup!
Soaking version:
Combine flour, oats, milk, and apple cider vinegar in a medium size bowl and place on the counter or in the oven with oven light ON but oven turned OFF overnight. In the morning add the remaining ingredients.

Blueberry Compote
This blueberry compote is an easy way to use less sugar by replacing straight maple syrup when eating pancakes. I’m sure it would also be delicious on vanilla ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, etc.
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3 tablespoons water
¼ (or less) maple syrup, honey, or sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice, fresh or concentrate (this is key!)
Combine blueberries, water, sugar, lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 18 minutes.  Best served warm. Make extra and store in glass containers such as mason jars in the refrigerator or freezer (make sure to leave some headroom so you don’t break your glass when it expands. Reheat by placing glass container of compote right on the skillet or pan while cooking pancakes to save time and dishes or warm separately in a small saucepan.


Have a great day and thanks for reading. Please make sure if you've been enjoying the blog to put your email in the right column and check us out on Facebook and Twitter!



Blueberry Compote (less sugar than straight maple syrup for pancakes, yogurt, ice cream, etc)

Blueberry Compote
This blueberry compote is an easy way to use less sugar by replacing straight maple syrup when eating pancakes. I’m sure it would also be delicious on vanilla ice cream, yogurt, oatmeal, etc.
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3 tablespoons water
¼ (or less) maple syrup, honey, or sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice, fresh or concentrate (this is key!)
Combine blueberries, water, sugar, lemon juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for about 18 minutes.  Best served warm. Make extra and store in glass containers, such as mason jars in the refrigerator or freezer (make sure to leave some headroom so you don’t break your glass when it expands. Reheat by placing glass container of compote right on the skillet or pan while cooking pancakes to save time and dishes or warm separately in a small saucepan.

Read the entire post here: 10 Reasons Why I Love U-Pick Blueberries

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes (Soaked Version Available)

Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes
Servings: 2 people
Modified recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie


These are one of the easiest pancakes I have ever made and they are delicious especially when eaten with my homemade blueberry compote!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/3 cup flour (ww pastry, white, spelt, or Bob’s gluten-free)
  • ⅓ cup rolled oats plus 4 tbsp rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp sugar or 2 packet stevia
  • 2/3 cup milk of choice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (optional, only if soaking)
  • 1-2 tablespoons flaxmeal, optional
Instructions
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl, then add wet. Mix, but don’t overmix. Cook on an oiled (or sprayed) pan, on low-medium, flipping each pancake once.  These take a little longer to cook than normal pancakes. Top with maple syrup, powdered sugar, or blueberry compote (my favorite!). We store our homemade blueberry compote in mason jars so we just put the jar on the skillet while we are cooking the pancakes to warm up the compote, yummmm, it is so delicious and way less sugar than straight maple syrup!
Soaking version:
Combine flour, oats, milk, and apple cider vinegar in a medium size bowl and place on the counter or in the oven with oven light ON but oven turned OFF overnight. In the morning add the remaining ingredients.

Read the entire post here: 10 Reasons Why I Love U-Pick Blueberries

Thursday, August 6, 2015

8 Ways to Have a Social Life After Having Kids



Sorry you haven’t heard from us in a while but we have been enjoying our summer by following our own advice on how to have a frugal family vacation! We have enjoyed time at Hot Springs, AR, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Tullymore Golf Resort, and Muskegon State Park, and next month we are going to the Porcupine Mountains, Pictured Rocks, and Tahquamenon falls.










People often ask us how we manage to take so many vacations and there are two main reasons 1) I do a lot of planning…. really far in advance and 2) we take frugal vacations like the time we spent only $121 on food and drink for 8 days in Los Cabo, Mexico (click here to read the story)


I was recently asked (ok it has been a couple of months already! remember we have been gone on vacation!) how to get out of house after having a baby.


For us it is/was pretty easy because we take our kids almost everywhere! We took our first family vacation when our son was 1 week old. Our foster son was only three days old when he went to his first hockey game, and our biological son went shark fishing when he was 2 months old. I just wore him in a sling and he slept almost the whole time. Most of the people on the boat didn’t even know there was a baby on board until he woke up to eat!


The Air Zoo at 1 week old


But for those that find it difficult to have a social life after kids or if you are pregnant and you are worried that will have to be a hermit here are some ideas on how to have a social life after having kids:


Oh and a quick tip for taking a newborn in public. Unless you have a preemie I don’t see any problem with taking a newborn out and about but if you are worried about it put your baby in a carrier or sling and strangers are a lot less likely to put their germy hands on your baby. And practice breastfeeding with your cover in front of a mirror so you can feel more confident that you are covered! Or just plan to excuse yourself to nurse your baby either one is fine...don’t  be hatin’ (maybe I should just write another post for tips about going out in public with a newborn, hmmm….). Anyway...tips on how to have a social life after having kids

  1. Go to a kid friendly brewery like Schmotz in Grand Rapids or Right Brain in Traverse City! Schmotz (John’s favorite brewery) is super low key and not rowdy so your new baby might keep sleeping. They do not serve food so you can order pizza delivery or bring your food or takeout or just enjoy a beer with their free popcorn. Like I said it is a very low key environment. We have had a group of friends meet there to play board games and we order pizza. Right Brain is again low key and even has kids games in the corner.

  2. When going out to eat try to pick less busy times like between lunch and dinner (3-4pm) or after the dinner rush. If your infant stays asleep in their car seat (unlike mine) then try to go during nap time but for older children AVOID naptime or bedtime. What worked well for us was to leave early and take a small walk with the baby in a carrier and then if we were lucky he would keep sleeping in the carrier throughout dinner.
  3. Host the party! That way you can put your child to bed a normal time and still be able to return to the party!
  4. Convince your friends to have kids too! It is a lot easier to hang out with other couples with kids because they will understand your struggles and know why you can’t go rock climbing or to a concert at 10pm. (If your friends are pregnant don't forget to pass on this valuable resource, The Ultimate Baby Registry)
  5. Now that you convinced your friends to have babies too now you can take turns babysitting for each other so you can enjoy a night out kid free!
  6. Meet at the library, park or children’s museum! If you feel like you haven’t had a chance to have an adult conversation in a while take your friend with you to the library, park, or children’s museum. That gives your children something fun to do while you sit down and talk to your friend.
  7. Attend a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting, Le Leche League meeting (or another breastfeeding support group), ECFE (Early Child Family Education) classes, Bible Study, Babywearing International meeting, etc to connect with other mothers and make new friends. The bible study at my church meets in the room next to the nursery and we hire a babysitter so we can focus on our meeting while the kids have fun with their friends then we can socialize afterwards. 2015-07-02 16.21.05.jpg
  8. Do an activity that is entertaining for both the kids and adults like a circus show, zoo, demolition derby, movie in the park, ice skating, amusement park (take turns watching the kids so you can have some adult fun too!), bowling, arcade, bike ride, or sledding.  

Have a great day and thanks for reading. Please make sure if you've been enjoying the blog to put your email in the right column and check us out on Facebook and Twitter!