Simple Pantry DIYs

May 8, 2018

With inspiration from the Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge, I’ve been trying to use (and use up) items from my pantry. I wanted to share some very easy things that I’ve made.

First up is pumpkin pie spice–no need to buy this. You can whip it up in minutes with ingredients you probably already have. I don’t remember where I found this particular recipe, but I’m sure many versions abound online. Aside from pumpkin pie, I use this mix in my oatmeal and in other baked goods, like muffins, waffles, and sweet breads. This recipe will nearly fill a small spice jar.

Pumpkin Pie Spice

6 t. cinnamon

1 1/2 t. ginger

1 1/2 t. nutmeg

3/4 t. cloves

Whisk ingredients together and voila, you are done.


Vegetable Broth Mix

Next up is vegetable broth mix. I use this all the time–in soups, stews, and chili. I used to buy Seitenbacher brand, which I absolutely love, but it’s very expensive. So I went the frugal route and made the recipe below with herbs and spices from my pantry. I didn’t have all the ingredients–I used what I had, and it works just fine.  Click here for vegetable broth mix recipe.


8-Minute Pantry Dal from Oh She Glows

This recipe is a new favorite. Our family typically has all the ingredients in stock, and the recipe is simple. I make big batches so we have leftovers. You can add any veggies that you prefer–I’ve used any of: potatoes, sweet potatoes, frozen peas, cauliflower, carrots, celery, onions, zucchini and red or yellow peppers. Any combo works, and it’s a good way to use up miscellaneous veggies you have around when groceries are running low. Angela Liddon has many wonderful recipes. Click here for 8-Minute Pantry Dal recipe.


Curry Powder Recipe from Minimalist Baker

And, here is a simple recipe for curry powder from Minimalist Baker (another phenomenal chef and blogger) that you can use in the dal!




Plastic-Free Shopping at Stop N Shop

April 20, 2018

I’m still trying to simplify grocery shopping, while striving to be as frugal and as close to zero waste as possible. It’s not easy (or simple), and I keep trying to find a happy balance.

I don’t usually go to Stop N Shop–it’s a really big store, and people always complain about the high prices–but I decided to try out some plastic-free shopping there today. I had great luck! Overall, I was very happy with how much I spent and the quantity of groceries that I got for my money. Here’s the rundown…

What I got that was packaging free:

  • Apples, pears, oranges, bananas, avocado.
  • Two kinds of lettuce, kale, cucumbers, zucchini, broccoli, cabbage, red & yellow peppers.
  • Onions, sweet potatoes, ginger.
  • Loaf of multi-grain bread from the bakery, placed into my own cloth bag; I brought the store’s paper bag with bar code on it to the register, but I left it with the cashier.

I’d like to say it was all organic, but it was all conventional. Much of the produce was on sale.

What I got that came in non-plastic, but recyclable packaging:

  • Canned beans, tomatoes, and corn*
  • Box of seltzer in cans.
  • Dark chocolate bar wrapped in paper.
  • Junior Mints & Reese’s Pieces in boxes (these treats are for my daughters to enjoy while we watch the finale of Season 4 of the Great British Baking Show tonight). I like these because they do not have plastic bags inside the boxes.

*I’m not sure if these cans were BPA-free. I suspect not. Click here to learn more about BPA.

What I got that contained some trash:

  • 2 packages of Annie’s mac n cheese–I can recycle the boxes, but the little packets for the cheese will have to go to the landfill.

What I got that was contained in plastic, albeit recyclable:

  • One package of vegan margarine; I am now researching vegan margarine recipes.


  • I didn’t get everything I needed, so I have to go to another store.
  • The carrots and celery were only available in plastic bags, so I didn’t get them.
  • The canned goods may have been a little bit more expensive than Aldi.








No Rush

April 13, 2018

I took today off from work, and the best part about it was that I didn’t have to rush. I woke up early, read my book in bed, and had plenty of time to my make favorite breakfast–blueberry banana breakfast rounds with a cup of tea. (You can find the recipe here.) I cleaned the kitchen while listening to the Freakonomics podcast and then went for a short walk while my daughters (who were off for spring break) slept in. It was so nice to not be frantically packing school and work lunches and urging kids to hurry up!

After the girls got up, we packed a (zero-waste) picnic and headed off to the Ansonia Nature Center. It is such a beautiful place–and free and open to the public! I love things that are accessible to one and all. We walked around the pond, spied piles of turtles, explored some trails and ate lunch at a picnic table. The girls played on the playground and did cartwheels in the ball field. The weather was glorious, and I’m so grateful for a simple, slow day spent out of doors with my girls.

The Side of the Road

April 10, 2018

On way my to work in the rain this morning, I drove past a house with piles of things for the trash. But as I looked more closely, I saw these items were perfectly good things, not trash. So I quickly made a U-turn and pulled up to the house. I hopped out and loaded into my car six throw pillows (two orange, two turquoise, and two floral) and a bag with an enormous, heavy, hand-crocheted afghan. The items were a little wet, but basically in good condition and without stains. There were more good things sitting curbside in the rain, but I couldn’t grab them all. There was a perfectly good shoe rack and a box of kids games, all getting wet.

I will find homes for the items I was able to take. I can bring them to our local Goodwill or I can Freecycle them. Sometimes if I see good toddler toys at the curb, I put them in my car and take them to our local children’s consignment shop, Gumdrop Swap. It is owned by a lovely, enterprising woman, and I am always happy to help her.

Other times, I grab things for my family or friends’ kids–I’ve found bicycles, scooters, and cozy coupes. Last year, I put two heavy wooden benches in the back of my car. My husband repaired and painted them, and we are now using them in our backyard.

It’s a shame to see good things go into the landfill. It’s actually heartbreaking to me. I feel especially bad when I see mattresses and box springs sitting out at the curb in the rain getting ruined, when I know someone, somewhere would be happy to have them.

So I guess the answer is to spread the word! There are ways to find homes for good things! Freecycle, Goodwill, the Veterans, tag sales, Buy Nothing groups, and the free section of Craig’s List. Maybe I should try to write an article about this for our local paper…stay tuned.

Why I Love Lists

April 9, 2018

I am one of those people who love to make lists. I write them constantly, and often I save them in a folder and go back to them. Without further ado, here’s a list of the reasons (in no particular order) why I love to make lists:

  1. Lists help keep me focused on priorities.
  2. I feel a sense of accomplishment when I check something off a list, and it motivates me to complete other items on the list.
  3. Lists help me to organize my thoughts and ideas.
  4. Lists move me forward and help me reach my goals.
  5. Lists keep me from forgetting things, especially when going on a trip or to the grocery store.
  6. I love the feeling of writing–the feeling of a fine-tipped pen on the smooth surface of paper, the flow of the words from the pen, the looping and crossing of the letters…I’m not really the type to make electronic lists, but I’m sure they work well for many people.
  7. List making is a good habit to model for my children.
  8. Lists help my kids stay on track with their homework and chores.
  9. Lists capture my ideas when I’m brainstorming.
  10. Lists help me to break large tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces.
  11. Writing lists is therapeutic for me–they help to give me a sense of control.
  12. Lists are a great way to start any kind of writing–letters, business documents, stories, poems, papers, etc. I remember I had a teacher once that had us start writing poems with a “grocery list”–just imagery words that we might want to use somewhere in our poem. It’s  less pressure and less daunting to start with just a few words.
  13. Continued from #12: Lists can galvanize into something bigger!

I also realized that there are many types of lists. Here’s a list of different kinds of lists:

  1. Grocery lists
  2. Packing lists
  3. Honey-do lists
  4. Checklists
  5. To-do lists*
  6. Top 10 lists
  7. Menus
  8. Recipes
  9. Outlines
  10. Table of contents
  11. Dean’s list
  12. NY Times Bestsellers list
  13. Bibliographies
  14. Wish lists
  15. Santa’s list (you know, naughty & nice)
  16. Address list
  17. Christmas list
  18. Instructions
  19. Ballots

*Full disclosure: there’s always one item on my to-do lists that never gets done: mop the kitchen. I hate mopping.

There are also some negative types of lists, but I ‘ve decided not to include them here.

Checklists can even save lives! There is a great podcast on Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam about checklists–you can find it here.

You can find Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto, How to Get Things Right at your local library or here.

Bullet Journals combine a calendar/planner with lists. I don’t keep a Bullet Journal, but I use some of the principles in my own planner. You can learn more about Bullet Journals here.


My Defining Moment

April 5, 2018

Ironically, the memory of my defining moment is a little fuzzy around the edges. I think I was about four years old, when my mother took me (and likely my younger sister) to visit a friend of hers in upstate New York. I don’t remember the friend’s name or the town…Troy? Utica?

But here’s what I remember: It was chilly outside, maybe early winter, and I was running around the yard with some other kids. The neighborhood wasn’t densely populated, and I recall lots of open space in which to run in the cold air. I escaped the other kids and found my way under a small grove of pine trees and sat down. It was like a little peaceful house underneath the boughs, and the soft ground was blanketed in long, thin pine needles. I felt cozy and protected. And it smelled good. I was sure this was a place where I could stay forever, alone in nature.

When it came time to go home, my mother found me under the trees and coaxed me to go. But I didn’t want to leave. She didn’t understand that I wanted to stay there under the trees in my house, forever. I still long for these kinds of places today (hence my penchant for tiny houses and the woods).

So really, as a four-year-old, I subconsciously knew something special about myself, that I had the makings of a little introvert. But I didn’t understand this until decades later.



Welcome to Journal to Simple

April 3, 2018

First, thank you for stopping by and taking a chance by reading this post. Time is precious and you’ve chosen to spend some time here, and I’m grateful!

For over seven years now, I’ve been trying to simplify my life. I’ve read many self-help personal growth books and blogs about simplifying, going zero waste, decluttering, happiness, finding the authentic self, finding purpose, food addiction, meditation, you name it. I’ve also read many memoirs by people who have chosen the road less traveled–my absolute favorite kind of book. I’ve learned a little something from each of these books and blogs and put many of the ideas into action.

I started this journal to reflect upon and share what I’ve learned. It’s been a bumpy path, believe me, with lots of struggles. This blog is not about perfection or to say “I’ve made it to Nirvana!” My life is still a work in progress; I just want to see how far I’ve come and process all the pieces and parts that are coming together and making me a little happier each day. And maybe these little bits will help others on their own path, too.