Frugal Food Series | Tip 1: Beans

Living in Canada is expensive.  What’s more expensive than living in Canada?  Living in Toronto.  With little wiggle room in our monthly budget, we have been using whatever maneuvers possible to save money.  And for us, it all starts in the kitchen.  In light of our tightened belt, I am writing a 10 part series to share the tips and secrets we’ve learned that get more bang for your buck with every grocery shop.  Mind you, if you know me well, these steps are only fruitful if they go hand in hand with eating delicious and nutritious food.  Who couldn’t use a couple extra dollars in their pocket, am I right?

So to start out the series I am going to share our crowning achievement in our money saving arsenal, how to easily cook and store dry beans.  We eat a lot of beans, from black bean tacos, heuvos rancheros, bean burgers, hearty bean soups, to hummus, beans make it into our diet every day.  They add substance, fiber, protein and a bunch of other stuff that I would know about if I was a nutritionist [I just know they’re good for you, ok!].   So beans are super cheap right?  You can buy a can of beans from any where from $0.80 to $1.50.  But the real money saver?


A bag of dry beans cost a little over a dollar, but they yield almost as much as 5 cans of beans.  And the way I make them is so easy and taste even better.  I’ve always felt frustrated when buying dry beans because when I followed the directions on the bag they never turned out well.  They were always too hard or too mushy.  They were more hassle than they were worth.  So here’s the trick, use your crock pot.  You can forget about them and they turn out perfectly.  Follow the recipe below, portion out your beans and freeze them.  I buy one bag of a different kind of beans each week to keep a variety of beans rotating in our freezer.

Money Saving Food Tips | Tip 1: Beans | Keeping WillowProcessed with VSCOcam with a5 presetMoney Saving Food Tips | Tip 1: Beans | Keeping Willow

Yep, beans are the magical fruit…in more ways than one.

How to Cook Dry Beans

One crock pot

1 bag of beans (let’s just use black beans for reference)
2 cloves of garlic
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cumin or 1/2 tsp whole cumin seed (I only use this for black beans)
2 T kosher salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

1. In the morning, before you leave for work or whatever you are doing that day, pour your black beans in your crock pot and fill it with water up to the top.  Don’t turn it on or anything.  Just let the beans soak all day.
2. Before you go to bed, drain and rinse the beans.  Add all of the above ingredients to the crock pot.  Fill with water until just below the brim.  Turn it on low. Go to sleep.
3. Wake up to a gorgeous aroma of perfectly cooked beans. Strain the beans, taking out the bay leaves and garlic cloves.  Put in a large tupperware container and place in the fridge to cool.  Go to work.
4.  When you get home, and the beans have cooled, portion out your beans into sandwich bags.  Put them in the freezer.  Use as needed, washing and reusing your bags each time– another money saving tip– you’re welcome 😉



And Then We Got Bed Bugs

Two weeks into our relocation to Toronto, starting a new job and coming down from a giant mountain of stress, I went to the park with Willow.  I noticed a swarm of mosquitos and tried to stay in the sun to keep them at bay.  The next day I had a small bump that itched like the dickens [because that’s what you say, right?].  It was on my stomach.  “Those were some damn  determined mosquitos”, I thought.  But then the next day I had two more.  “How strange”, I thought.  After a couple days I had little pink bumps up and down my arms and legs.  And they ITCHED!!  So bad.  I barely had to scratch them and they broke open.  Then I started worrying.  Am I sick?  Do I have the chicken pox again?  Maybe some form of Canadian leprosy (the irrationality of my worried mind is absurd).  Jazz didn’t have any bumps.  Willow didn’t have any bumps.  WHAT ON EARTH IS HAPPENING TO ME?!!!!

And then I checked the sheets.

For my bachelorette party my amazing friends took me for a long weekend in Chicago. A couple of my friends thoroughly educated us on how to avoid the contamination and determine the presence of bed bugs.  My best friend Lauren was very cautious and warned us of how horribly horrible a bed bug contamination was.  My other close friend talked about what someone she knew had to go through to get rid of bed bugs and it was hell.  They made sure that everyone check their sheets and mattress for tiny, red blood stains.

And that’s just what I found.  All over my side of the bed were tiny, red spots.  I didn’t find any bugs.  I couldn’t find any eggs.  But I knew they were there.  I began to bag up everything we own when Jazz asked me what on earth I was doing.  When you have bed bugs, you have to wash and dry everything on hot.  EVERYTHING.  But Jazz didn’t have any bites, and neither did Willow. I think Jazz thought I was going mad.  To ease my worries he agreed to wash our sheets and everything fabric in our room besides all our clothes.  We checked the mattress meticulously and found nothing.  To bed safe, we bought a bed bug mattress cover that seals in bed bugs basically starves them out.

That night, I went to bed in peace.  But an hour later, Willow woke up in a fit.  I picked her up and put her in bed with me.  While we were laying there I felt a faint pain on my arm.  The kind of pain that was hard to tell was real or in your mind.  As I was trying to help Willow back to sleep, I kept still.  After I laid Willow back down, I took my phone out and began to search.  I checked the sheets.  Nothing.  But then something caught my eye.  Crawling along  the top of my headboard was a little, redish, lentil size bug.  A bed bug to be precise.  And it was full of blood.  MY BLOOD!  I don’t know why they were attacking me, but I was done.  I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do when you have bed bugs (because you can further spread them around the house) and made myself a place to sleep on the couch, waiting for Jazz to come out of the bathroom.  He walked out, shut off the light and grabbed the handle to the bedroom door.

“I saw one”, I whispered.

Jazz jumped a little, not expecting anyone to be in the living room.  Jazz made his way into the bedroom and found the same, a little bug crawling around our head board.  We slept on this couch for 3 nights.  Both of us.  At the same time. For 3 (4)

Well maybe “slept” is being a bit generous.  Every couple hours, one of us woke up to go make sure Willow wasn’t being attacked by our little vampires.

It was violating and disturbing.

We are very fortunate that our landlords moved so quickly to get rid of our bed bug problem, and that Ontario law works in favor of the tenant.  We were also very fortunate/blessed/lucky SOB’s to have some amazing friends living in the same town as us.  Our dear friends Dean and Emily took us in, fully knowing they could get bed bugs too (don’t worry, we took every precaution), and gave us THEIR bed to sleep in (geesh, those Christians).  We were able to actually sleep a couple nights and take care of the 14 loads of laundry Jazz did while the exterminator steamed our apartment.  We are BEYOND grateful and really feel a deep sense of love for our giving friends.

It has a been two weeks since the exterminator came and [knock on wood] we have seen no signs of any bed bugs since.  It was the crappiest week ever but it could have been A LOT worse.  We found out later that the previous tenants knew there was a bed bug problem, but declined to inform the landlord [@#$%&*&%*$@#%!!!!!!!!!] Mind you, these were the same people who let their rabbits relieve themselves all over the floor.  We lost our brand new bed frame (that’s were the little buggers were hiding) and some $$ on laundry and storage tubs, but we gained something out of all of this.  Besides a new appreciation for the comfortable size of a queen bed, we realized how crazy blessed we are to have such gracious friends.  They were crazy to have taken us in, but they saved us from a few more sleepless nights.  You can’t buy that kind of friendship.  I’m not going to say it was worth it to get bed bugs just to realize that, but it was a plus.

Nighty night.  Don’t let the bed bugs bite.



Not a Baby Anymore

Willow was playing at the playground.  That girl loves the slide.  As she was climbing the stairs for the 54th consecutive time to begin her euphoric decent, a little girl told her dad that she wanted to go down the slide after the baby.  The dad laughed at her daughter and said, “honey, that’s not a baby”.

I looked at him and gave him a polite grin.  Underneath I was angry and confused.


And then I saw this picture of her.  And I knew he was right.  She’s not a baby anymore.


I’m about to be that mom that cries at every stage of their child’s life.  I’ll be in the closet with the kleenex.




Navigating Your Way

Migrating the path of your own life is often times easy, set out, marked with arrows.  Sometimes it feels like you’re on a track, the daily grind taking you in circles which seem oh-so-famliar with every turn.  But there comes a time in everyone’s life when they have to choose their “way”.  They have to put on their grown up pants and make a decision that will move them in a direction that is completely unknown and foreign.

The other night we took a walk in this breathtakingly, beautiful area near our apartment called the Leslie Spit.  It is a man made peninsula on the east side of the city of Toronto that juts out 3 miles into Lake Ontario.  There are no lights, no cars, no noise.  You reach a point when you become completely surrounded with wilderness, not a building or a powerline in sight, just immense wildlife and the sounds of waves crashing on the shore to guide you on your walk.  When the city is in view, it is unadulterated, heart-stopping and mystical.  We were so taken by the surprise of this refreshing gulp of nature that we didn’t notice a storm brewing to our backs and the fast approaching sunset that would leave us stranded in the dark.  With no modern conveniences such as street lights to guide us, we were left in a thick cloud of darkness.

We knew the path home but we couldn’t see it.

That is how life is right now, for me anyway.  I know where I want to go, I know how to get there, but all the lights are off and I can’t see the path in front of me.  It’s a frustrating and slightly scary place to be.  It only seems natural to sit down and wait until the sun comes up or someone shows up with a flashlight or a giant blinking arrow in the sky comes by just to generously point you in the right direction.  But this is not likely to happen.  Life is not always so kind.

Yesterday morning, at worship, the homily was about pilgrimage.  And although we were 45 minutes late, caught in the rain, and visiting a new community on the other side of town, we came in just in time for the words I needed to hear.  The priestess told a story of a pilgrimage she took, one in which many obstacles and ailments arose.  But she continued on her pilgrimage anyway, and along the way, a means to aid each adversity was always provided.  She continued to say that what matters in a pilgrimage is not how fast you’ve walked, or whether you were the first one there or if you gained a multitude of blisters on your feet, but rather that you continue moving forward in faith that you are being looked after.  I needed to hear that although finding your way through life is hard, there is so reason to fear. It was this simple courage I needed to be reminded that I already had.

Finding our way back home in the dark from the Leslie Spit wasn’t difficult, considering there was only one road.  And getting caught in a storm as we approached our apartment deemed to be as amusing as it was a hindrance to our trip. But this small walk made me think about how easily I have let the unknown push me into a corner.  I have let it keep me from taking a leap forward, having faith that following my passions is a risk worth taking, that I am indeed being looked after.  Although I haven’t felt this way lately, I believe that when we come to a crossroads in life, we have to choose between staying on the path we’ve been on and taking a risk that is in line with our passions and core identity.  Everyone who has ever done anything meaningful in life has made this difficult decision. And when we choose the road that leads us towards this kind of risk, it is at this unique moment that life bursts forth and we feel the most alive.  We no longer settle or put up with or manage; we thrive.  And that’s the kind of life I want to live, a life that views failure as a sharpening stone and lets fear fall by the way side.  Of course, this is all easier said than done.  But it is reminders like these that recenter us and give us courage to take another step.

May we never be afraid to keep moving forward as we navigate through life, even if we can’t see exactly where we are going.



A Tourist in Your Own Town

Ever since we moved to Toronto, I have this constant, nagging feeling that I am missing something extraordinary happening in the city.  Like there is some underground, epic “thing” that is going on that I cannot go to because I just don’t know it exists.  And I would most likely have the best day of my life if I went to this “thing” because I would love it so much.  Whatever “it” is, it is beckoning me and calling me.  I am becoming borderline obsessed with finding the “thing” I don’t know about yet and may not even exist.

All this is making me anxious.

So I came up with a theory, in order to find my “diamond-in-the-rough-of-a-good-time”, I have to start from the very beginning.  You know, a very good place to start [you see the “Sound of Music” solves everything]   And that means, [ahem, let me clear my throat in preparation for your gasp] being a tourist.  I know, I know, tourists are typically bothersome pests  to the steady local, with their camera slung around neck, fanny pack in tow and peace sign ready at any given moment.  And although becoming one of them in your own town is a walk of shame, I am willing to do it to win my prize (please, mind you, I am being slightly facetious).

So first on the list, Kensington Market. An eclectic melange of shops and restaurants line the streets of this famous outdoor market, and to be quite honest we didn’t do our research.  We just assumed it was a big open air market housing your everyday fruits, veggies, meat and dairy.  While of course there are places you can buy these things, Kensington Market is far from this.  It is an outdoor strip of shops lining several streets rather than an enclosed and contained market.  There is everything from espresso bars, local art, vintage clothing stores, and bike shops to any kind of world food you can imagine. And if you like people watching, this is the place to be.  There are people from all walks of life treading through Kensington market.  We encountered a young performer who was busking by reading Dr. Seuss books.  Really. And the hipsters.  There are no words.

Willow is becoming accustomed to public transit as she takes the bus and the subway with me each day to work, but her absolute favorite is the street car.  They zip by the end of our street every 6 minutes or less and with each encounter Willow emphatically proclaims, in her native Willownease, “street car!!!”, and throws her hands in the air in absolute joy.  It’s adorable.  So taking the street car to Kensington Market already made her day.  Watching all of the people and performers was the icing on the cake.  I thought she would be overstimulated, as I was, from the immense crowd, but she was thoroughly entertained and managed to be completely content, even until we arrived back home [except for when we bought ice cream for ourselves and she found out we were eating it behind her back–oops].

Kensington Market was a great experience, but you won’t see me hustling back there anytime soon.  It was just a step in my master plan to finding “that thing”, and honestly a big crowd amongst an overwhelming amount of tiny shops doesn’t completely hold my intrigue.  But I’m glad we went.  The best part was the streetcar ride home when we had almost the entire back car to ourselves and made silly jokes and pointed at babies and dogs.  The list seems impossibly long, but exploring the city with my loves is kind of magical in and of itself.  There will be many more adventures to share.

Have you ever felt like a tourist in your own town?  I would love to hear your stories.  Until then.



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