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10 Days of Beans and Rice

Earlier this month, I shared some of my favorite cheap meals, and mentioned off-hand that it was totally possible to eat beans and rice for a week without getting bored of it. And then I thought, “can you really?” So I looked at the recipes we regularly ate, found some super cool new ones and decided that I was going to challenge myself to cook up 10 nights of beans and rice dinners, and document how we felt about our experiment. I made a pinterest board full of beans and rice recipes, some of which we tried during this experiment, and you can look at it right here. I tried to include recipes when possible, but some of them are just kind of “wing it” recipes. 

Some notes About the Beans and Rice challenge

  • We made a different beans and rice dish every night, which normally you wouldn’t do. For this particular challenge, I wanted to show several different types of meals that could be made with beans and rice, so we did 10 different dishes.
  • Because we cooked ten different dishes, we didn’t save as much money as we normally would. In the end, our experiment was about the same price as it would be if we had cooked normally, but we made a lot more food. Because of that, we were able to put lots of these dishes into single serving bags and freeze them for Dustin to take to work. This will save us money and time in the evenings when he needs to pack a lunch for work. In the end, this will save us money later on, but this month it was a break even.
  • Not every dish contains both beans AND rice. To make sure things didn’t get too similar, some nights we focused on rice exclusive dishes, some nights we didn’t include rice at all. This was to help keep the texture of rice and beans from becoming too much, not so much a flavor issue.
  • Some of these dishes contain meat. I tried to use meat I purchased on sale or deeply discounted, and wanted to keep costs down by not using meat in every dish. I wasn’t worried about needing protein in our diet, but because meat provides great flavor and texture, I didn’t want to leave it out completely.
  • We didn’t always eat the leftovers for lunch. I’ve got two kiddos at home, and didn’t want THEM to experience burnout, so occasionally we had things like chicken nuggets and fresh veggies. I also packed these things for Dustin, because I like him and didn’t want him to hate me. 
  • There is one day where we forgot we would be out of town for work, and that dinner was provided. If it hadn’t been provided, we probably would have continued the challenge with a packed meal, but instead we had roast beef (it was the BOMB), and then the next day got back on our meal plan. 

Here’s what we had!

Day 1:

We decided to start off simply with bean and cheese burritos at the house. The kids loved this, because we added cheese, salsa, sour cream, and more cheese (my kids inherited my cheese infatuation). And it came in a tortilla. Which meant it was a good day. We used a can of ranch style beans we had in our pantry, and I used this day to soak a pound of some red beans for the next day.

Day 2: 

My husband was so happy about this day, because we had red beans and rice, cajun style. I found a great deal on some smoked sausage from the ag department at the college we live next to (jalapeño sausage.. yum!) and so we added that in there. It was really good and super filling. Having the snap of the sausage added texture.. While mommy, daddy, and our one year old loved the spiciness of this dish, my three year old wasn’t having it. But she also ate an apple before dinner, so I wasn’t too surprised that she didn’t eat much of her dinner. I pre-soaked two pounds of dry black beans overnight so that the next day I could cook all of them in our slow cooker.

Day 3:

One of my favorite ways to save money on meals is to cook a huge batch of beans in the crockpot, and then bag them up individually and freeze them. Even though canned beans aren’t super expensive (about $.75-$1.00 a can, depending on the type of beans you use), cooking your own dry beans means we take that cost down to less than $.10 a can. And I can feel confident that there’s no added salt or other stuff in my recipe, so I can have more control of the flavor of our meal. Today, because the weather was gloomy and gross, I made a soup that contained both beans and rice. It took way longer than the twenty minutes it was supposed to, so by the time it was done, someone had fallen asleep. But the people who were awake really enjoyed it. 

It was around this time when I asked Dustin if he was getting tired of this beans and rice challenge. “It doesn’t even feel like a challenge,” he told me. We’ll see.

Day 4:

My sweet husband took over making dinner tonight, so we had stuffed bell peppers. He used the leftover red beans and rice to stuff them, and topped it with cheese. This was a great way to use some of the leftovers. When I made the soup, I saved just enough for us to have lunch today, and then bagged the rest of it up into single serving bags. 

If I can brag for just a second, Dustin made a fabulous dinner. Because we already had the stuffing fully cooked, Dustin diced the bell pepper he cut off the top, and set it in the fridge for me to use later this week.  

Day 5: 

Today I made southwest chicken and rice, which was delicious, but had kind of a mushy texture. This is the first time I felt less confident that we could make it through the entire 10 day menu plan. I also remembered around here that we would accidentally be skipping a day, since Dustin and I would be working out of town and dinner would be provided. But we decided to stick to the meal plan, and just get a small break from beans and rice. As delicious as dinner was, the texture of was beginning to wear me down. But! This meal is also freezer friendly, so it got bagged up, also. I decided that in the morning I’d be soaking some chickpeas for a curry, one of our favorite bean and rice dishes. I also forgot to take a picture of the chicken and rice, but we definitely ate it. And we definitely have enough in our freezer to feed chicken and rice to a small army now.

Day 6: 

Because the rice texture yesterday was SO soft (it was over cooked, but I made it all in the slow cooker, so I shouldn’t be too surprised), I decided this day to go to one of my families all time favorite meals. Pizza. But instead of making a normal pizza, I was going to make a bbq chicken pizza. And then I learned we had half a pound of ground beef hiding in the back of our freezer, so instead I made up a quick recipe for a taco pizza. I whipped up a quick batch of red enchilada sauce (and then put most of it back in the fridge for bean and cheese enchiladas), seasoned the ground beef with taco seasoning, and then used pepper jack cheese and black beans to finish it off. It was a gorgeous pizza, and it tasted so good. So good, in fact, that my husband ate the leftover beef and beans with a biscuit for breakfast the next morning, and THEN had the leftover pizza for lunch. I asked him again how he was feeling about this challenge. He replied “I love it.”

As for me? I was noticing a difference too. I don’t think we eat a ton of meat anyway, but this whole week we’d eaten one sausage link, about 1 1/2 lbs of chicken, and that 1/2 lb of beef. But we’d still had a ton of good protein, and a lot of veggies. And after we finish dinner, I don’t feel super full. Partly because we’re eating smaller portions, and maybe partly because we’re eating really good food. At this point, adding beans to every meal seems pretty sustainable. We haven’t done *as much* rice, but that’s partly because a lot of the rice dishes are coming the last half of this challenge. And also it’s partly because Dustin is the rice making champion, and I’m still learning about rice dishes. Since he hasn’t been home to help with dinner most nights we’ve done this challenge, I’ve been focusing on meals I know how to make! But rice hasn’t been off the menu. In fact, four of the past six dinners we’ve made have contained both beans AND rice. So there. 

Day 7: 

I made “refried” beans in the crockpot by cooking 2 lbs of pinto beans overnight. When we wake up the morning of day 7, I text Dustin (who is working) and ask what he thinks the house smells like. “It smells like bacon. Is that what you used to flavor the beans?” But I have put nothing in the beans except water and time. They just smell so good. I’m tempted to eat a bowl of them with rice for lunch, also, but instead I decide we will have pinto beans and rice for dinner, and I will use the leftover beans for my “refried” beans. It’s kind of a repeat meal from day two, but the beans smell so good I doubt anyone really minds. Plus there’s no meat, which makes it *totally* different. And different beans! I decide to use brown rice to *really* switch things up. I divide the beans into refried beans and dinner beans, mash up half of them, and then quickly clean out the crockpot to make some chickpeas. I was supposed to do this yesterday, and then I didn’t. Whoops!

Day 8: 

Because I’d made enchilada sauce and refried beans, tonight’s dinner practically made itself (especially since Dustin put it together for me while I took a shower ALONE). Weeknight enchiladas, for the win. Also, today I finally looked at my favorite website for food, Budget Bytes, and saw the beans and grains section. Can we do this forever? It’s entirely possible.

Day 9:

Dustin was home for less than ten minutes this day. I had no patience for the stove. The kids wanted “apples” for dinner. I wanted to make curried chickpeas with spinach, which is normally one of our favorite meals. We compromised with bean burritos that I didn’t take a picture of because everyone was crying. Not because of the food, just because we’d had a hard few days. The burritos were good. Mine had avocado in it also. We used beans from a can.

Day 10: 

We had friends come over for dinner tonight, which was a very appropriate way to end our beans and rice experiment. So we celebrated by making a more expensive dish (we used shrimp!), jambalaya. To stretch the cost, I added extra bell peppers, sausage that Dustin’s parents had given us, and chicken on the bone, that I shredded and deboned after cooking. The whole package of chicken was a dollar (for five bone-in thighs), and the sausage was free. The shrimp was a treat, and my oldest daughter loves shrimp, so it was worth it. I had never made jambalaya without using a box, and I was so impressed by how easy it was (except I should have stirred the rice more often to prevent the stuff on top from getting too crunchy). It was still really good. And still fairly inexpensive. 

So there you have it. I guess I should add that the next night we had black bean lettuce wraps, even though the challenge was over. And I should also mention that there are a TON of meals I added to my meal plan that we ended up not eating, AND there are a ton of meals still on my Pinterest board that I’m itching to try. We didn’t make chili! Or fried rice! Or the curry I kept talking about (and even cooked chickpeas for)! What?? It really caused us to look at our meal plan, and I see a lot less meat on our dinner table in the future. 

I also couldn’t believe how many freezer bags we used during this challenge (almost 70 quart sized bags), but I was pretty happy with how much of the leftovers we ended up eating also. Most of the things that went in the freezer were beans from the crockpot, as well as the stock I made today from the chicken bones and veggie scraps we generated during the challenge. 

I see this as a semi-permanent change in our eating habits. While we won’t be exclusively planning beans and rice dishes, I see us sticking with most of the meals we made during the past ten days. They were good for our budget, we felt great eating like this, and I even lost a pound and a half, which really surprised me because I thought we were still eating pretty hearty! 

If you made it through all of this, you deserve a cookie. Or at least, a big ol’ bowl of chili!


Lessons from Our Budget Slash

We’ve been doing this budget slash for about two weeks now, and so far, we’re doing okay. Even with Holly’s birthday party, we’ve managed to stay on budget pretty well. But I won’t pretend it’s been easy, and that we haven’t stumbled a few times. I’m glad Dustin has been such a good sport about all the craziness I put us through since May. Since starting the 101 in 1001 days, we’ve started living differently. Some of the changes have been simple, and some have been a little more extreme, and without Dustin’s support and encouragement, we wouldn’t be checking those things off nearly as quickly. He’s the best.

Anyway, here are a few things we’ve learned at the halfway mark. 

  1. Half of staying on target is preparation. Maybe more than half. Maybe 90% of staying on target is preparation. Because when we were reviewing our budget from last month, I noticed that a TON of our “Eating out/entertainment” fund went towards Sonic’s Happy Hour, which should shock NO ONE who knows us really well. But this month, we are  making our own tea at home. That means we have to make it several hours before we thing we will need it (and Dustin has been a Saint about helping with this), we need to make ice the night before, and we need to have clean glasses to put our tea in. And that’s just for tea! Making sure I definitely have meals planned out in advance, that I’ve got snacks pre-bagged and ready to grab for the days when we’re running errands, and planning our errands out so that we don’t drive the car more than we have to… Planning ahead like this has been a huge part of being (mostly) successful this month.
  2. Know your shopping triggers and AVOID AVOID AVOID. For me that is: craft stores, any store that sells children’s clothes, stationary sections of any and all stores, and Target. These are the places I have the hardest time walking in without talking myself into the necessity of purchasing something. So this month we’ve tried to stay away from Hobby Lobby. It’s mostly working. 😛
  3. Sometimes you save money by spending money. Spoken like a true lady, right? But seriously. We ran out of goldfish this month, and instead of spending $7 for the CostCo sized box of Goldfish, we spent $9 for a big box of popcorn. We spent a few dollars more, but there’s much more popcorn in that big box than there are fish in that cheaper box. And I like popcorn better anyway!
  4. Most of the things we purchase are due to laziness (usually mine). There aren’t enough hours in a day to make all the things I know would save us money, and I would rather read a book with my kids than spend hours in the kitchen. I try to make as much as I can (or so I thought), but this month I’ve realized that there are so many things that take very little extra work on my part that I have stopped doing for one reason or another. I will definitely be bringing some of these things back when September rolls around.
  5. We have way more than we need. Halfway through the month, and our pantry is STILL full. Really REALLY full. Our freezer is still pretty well stocked. We’ve run out of a few basics, but mostly we’ve still got quite a bit of food left. What this tells me is that a) the months of nesting we had over a year ago maybe created a bad habit in me to over prepare, and b) there’s a fine line between being prepared and being ridiculous, and I have crossed that line

I think we may do this every couple months. So far, it has helped us clean out our house (because not walking around all those trigger stores means I’ve had time to clean out closets, organize drawers, and fix up our garage), make bigger payments on our debt, begin rebuilding our emergency fund, and more. I can’t recommend a month like this enough. So far it has been awesome. 

Anyone else doing this challenge this month? How is it working out for you? Any lessons you’ve learned that you’d like to share?


HeART Art Challenge (365 Days)

I know. I just started my 101 goals in 1001 Days, and I’m already coming atcha with another challenge. But think about the 365 art challenge as a challenge within a challenge. Challenge-ception, if you will.  

(Insert cool graphic that I will make NOT TODAY because it will have hearts in it and I think that should count, right? So just pretend this is the best graphic you’ve ever seen and then later maybe it will be. Or at least, it will be made with love, so that’s something, right? Challenge-ception. We’re back.)

I saw a book about this in the bookstore *years* ago, where a guy did an art project where he made an artistic interpretation of a skull every day for 365 days, and then created a journal where you could follow along. I don’t have that journal, but the idea of doing a project like that has stuck with me since then, and I decided to use the 101 in 1001 days as a way to make myself do it. Since I’m not doing his challenge exactly, I wrote my own rules, just in case anyone wants to follow along and do their own challenge with me. My theme for the next year is “heart,” but you can pick anything. Take a selfie every day for 365 days, draw your breakfast every day, do an artistic interpretation of “cat,” “space,” “butterfly” or anything you want. Don’t make it something really easy, but don’t make it something you can’t do for 365 days. 

Here are the rules for the 365 day heART challenge (0r just art challenge, if you’re not doing hearts).


-Post one piece of art every day for an entire year.

-This year, the theme (for me) is “heart.” Each piece of art must be based around this year’s theme.

-Art includes- painting, drawing, music, dance, poetry/prose, found objects, collage, crafts, food, clothing… Anything that can be shared publicly counts. 

-Must be uploaded to that month’s designated “sharing space” by midnight to be counted.

-Some pieces will take more than one day to complete. Pieces are only counted for the 365 total the day they are uploaded and shared. 

-I will do my VERY BEST to not schedule pieces, but I am a mom of two who does freelance work and occasionally likes to leave the house and shower and stuff, and our computer doesn’t *love* me, so I will occasionally schedule pieces. This also means I can spend some days doing more complicated pieces. Yay!!

-Absences are allowed during family emergencies and will be announced as soon as possible.

-Challenge begins June 1st (that’s tomorrow! Eek!) and ends after 365 pieces of art have been shared.

So those are the rules. I’ve created a separate tab for the challenge with a copy of the rules. That’s where I’ll be sharing most of my pieces (I think.. I’ll let you know where they are on that page, too). If you are interested, leave a comment and let me know that you’re joining me! Even if I’m on day 364, it’s never too late to join in the fun. 🙂

I am so excited to start this tomorrow, and I can’t wait to see what gets made this next year. I’m not a visual artist, but I think it will be tons of fun to do something out of my comfort zone. I hope you get inspired to do something similar, too.


Fortnight Friday Follow-up #1

New segment on the blog! We’ll see if it lasts. I thought it’d be fun to do a quick recap of everything we’ve done in the past two weeks, as well as other cool stuff. I’ll be doing it on Fridays, because alliteration, and every two weeks, because fortnight is a regretfully underused word. And because I don’t want to bore you with every week, because… sometimes a single week at our house is kinda boring. Boring in the “I’m going to pull my hair out because laundry and potty training and bills” kind of way, but boring.

I went on a girls night out one night, where my phone died and none of us took pictures because we were very focused on conversation and food. It was so nice to see everybody, and it was my first night out of the house without Dustin or my kiddos! What??

The very NEXT evening (because apparently we’ve turned into party people) we went to a “See you later!” party for some of our dear friends, who are moving several hours away. And we have already made plans to go visit them and see their chickens and their wild raspberry patch, so now we all have something to look forward to, which makes saying goodbye for now a little less sad.

Fortnight Friday 1

Holly is learning to potty train, and it is SO exciting. I thought maybe I would write a post on it, but basically my post would be: She did it herself, so that wouldn’t be very interesting or helpful. No pictures of that, because eventually she’ll be in high school. You’re welcome, sweetie.

I finally got a sturdy backpack-style carrier (an ergo! *LINK*) and I LOVE it. We’ve been getting out of the house just so I can strap one of my kids to my body and walk around. They both really enjoy it, and I love that it works for both Holly and Melody (not at the same time, obviously, but still… It’s awesome).

Fortnight Friday 1
This past weekend, Dustin was home ALL weekend, which hasn’t happened since we got snowed in this past December. It was so lovely. We went on lots of walks, watched movies together, and laughed until our cheeks hurt. I love that man.

I also got to teach my cousin Morgan how to crochet (another goal down!) and one of the movies we watched was in German (Look Who’s Back, currently on Netflix) so now I’ve got 4 more until I check that goal off.

The rest of the week has been quiet, a week of cleaning and book reading and scheming and watching Alton Brown (Holly LOVES Good Eats, because she is the coolest). I’ve been trying to get in 10,000 steps every day this week, and it’s surprisingly silly how hard it is (especially after I mad my knee angry earlier this week!), but I’m determined to lose the rest of this baby weight before Melody’s first birthday party. So I’m marching while I type this. Not sure if my pedometer is actually reading my steps, but I know I took them, and that counts for something, right?

I’ve been working on a few different creative endeavors that I hope I can share here very soon, but until then, just know I’ve been in my secret workshop, brewing plans and stuff.

Fortnight Friday #1
Links I’m lovin!

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15 Ways I Reset My Day

Hello. My name is Ashley, and I am a parent of a toddler. (Hi, Ashley.) It has been zero days since I locked myself in my six month old’s room with a spoon and a jumbo jar of Nutella in a desperate attempt to reset my day.

Sometimes, the breakdowns make total sense to me. I feel like I parent through those without sending her to therapy too much in the future. You don’t want to leave the park? I totally get it. You were having a blast. You don’t want to take a nap? You’ll regret those words later, but I get that too. I am awesome. I’d want to keep chilling with me, too. 😉

How to reset your day
But the other day, for instance, she asked for a bow in her hair. I put a bow in her hair. She threw the bow on the ground and cried because she didn’t want that bow. I asked her to bring me the bow she did want. She brought me the same bow. I put it in her hair. She threw the bow on the ground and told me to pick it up. I did not handle our next few interactions with the bow very well. At all. One might say that I handled them quite poorly.

So I sent both of us to our rooms. After a few minutes, we were both calmer, and she was able to explain to me that she wanted a ponytail with her bow. She then brushed my hair and put bows in it, I got her a ponytail (side note: she calls ponytails “pirate hair” and I want her to keep doing this forever), and things were a little better. Sometimes time away is all I need to get the day back on track. But sometimes that is impossible for one reason or another. For that reason, I am compiling this list (for myself, but if it works for you, GOOD) of ways we can reset our day when the wheels have fallen off. Or, rather, the bows have come off.

how to reset your day

15 Ways I Reset My Day

  1. Go outside.
  2. Put on music and dance to a song for a few minutes.
  3. Grab a book and begin reading outloud.
  4. Play-doh? Kinetic sand? I strap Holly in when we do this stuff, so it’s a double plus win in my book.
  5. Watch Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. (Only Mr. Rogers. He is the king of conflict resolution.)
  6. Get in the car. (This works if you’ve been in the house too long or when the tantrum happens at the store.)
  7. Drink water. (That’s for me. I’m always dehydrated, and water always helps.)
  8. Grab our journals. Both Holly and I have a journal, and we journal together when we’re happy and when we are less happy.
  9. Ask yourself if either one of you is hungry or tired. This is the cause of 90% of the problems at our house. If that’s the case, fix it!
  10. Set a timer. Clean up the house for 10 minutes.
  11. Bake something. No one is ever mad about brownies. Except maybe a toddler.
  12. Take 5 deep breaths.
  13. Hug it out.
  14. Make silly faces until you’re all laughing.
  15. Coconut Oil. (What? It fixes everything, right?)

I’m sure there are other ways I reset my day, but right now I can’t think of any. Nap time is almost over, and I have to chug some water before the witching hour begins. 🙂

how to reset your day
If you have some tricks I didn’t list here please please share them in the comments. Please.

15 Ways to Reset My Day