Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Art of UnSpending

So many aspects of my personal life seem to be converging. The change in eating habits to get rid of psoriasis has crossed over into my spending habits. The quietness of having one child at home during the day has lead to more time spent in the kitchen. And the lack of sugary treat-buying with my Fun Dollars has resulted in creative new ways to make "treats".

My favorite two recipes are brownies and muffins, only instead of flour and sugar, I substitute beans and bananas/dates. (recipes are listed below.)

Part of the fun of Fun Dollars is finding ways to make use of or enjoy what is already yours. By doing this, you think outside the box and come up with ways to actually save your Fun Dollars. Yes, Fun Dollars are meant to be spent, but what happens when you want something bigger, something that costs more than the Fun Dollars you might get each week?

One of my plans for Fun Dollars this year was to finance part of Christmas with Fun Dollars. It's partially a gift to Corey, so that our bank account doesn't get slammed with Christmas, followed by my daughter's birthday two weeks later, followed by my son's birthday three weeks after that...then Valentine's Day two weeks after his birthday....then my birthday the day after that....Yeah, pretty much from Christmas through the day after Valentine's Day, our family sees A LOT of spending. Not to mention the registration renewal for both cars happens in December and January. So the fact that I will be able to take a little bit of the financial strain off the family's budget is a challenge I heartily welcome.

What does that mean for my Fun Dollars? It means planning, first and foremost. I can't just decide in December that I want to use my Fun Dollars for Christmas and birthdays. I would only have a limited budget to work with, not to mention zero Fun Dollars for me to spend on myself. But if I set aside a little each week that I receive Fun Dollars, I can build up the Christmas budget into something that will actually benefit the family.

That also means I will be working with less Fun Dollars each installment. So to find ways to save my Fun Dollars, and not spend them on items I would normally buy becomes a fun little challenge. As I mentioned earlier, I have been spending more time in the kitchen. Researching and experimenting with healthy "treat" alternatives has become my new passion. When Carrick comes home from school and I have a plate full of brownies, the look on his face is priceless. And because I make them with black beans and no sugar, he can eat as many as he wants. When he comes home telling me how awesome his lunch was because he got to eat three muffins, my heart sings. He totally forgets that the muffins are just beans and eggs. It's all about the cinnamon and nuts and bananas that add flavor.

By making these awesome, healthy treats, I haven't spent a dime on Luna Bars, Gummy Bunnies, Doritos, or ice cream ( I did come across an awesome, healthy gelato recipe I want to try out.) As a result, I have more Fun Dollars in my pocket. All of the ingredients are things that we would buy on a regular trip to the grocery store. Adding an extra $10.00 for a dozen eggs, four cans of beans and a bunch of ripe bananas is well within the scope of our grocery budget. As a result, we have snacks and treats, as well as lunch items all week that are not only delicious, but good for our kids to put into their bodies.

Really, it all comes together: what we spend, what we eat, what we do, how we think. When one part of our life changes, it sets into motion changes in so many other areas of life. We become a better version of ourselves when we can adapt to those changes and embrace the newness.

Here are the two recipes I have tried so far.

Black Bean Brownies:

1 15 oz. can black beans (drain and rinse)
3 eggs
4 tbsp cacao or coco powder
3 tbsp oil (I use coconut oil for the sweetness)
1 banana (mashed), or 1/4 cup dates (for sweetener), or you can use 1/2 cup regular sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 c whole walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. (I use the toaster oven because it heats up faster and I can fit my brownie pan in there.) Put everything (except walnuts) in the blender/food processor. Crush and stir in 1/2 the walnuts if you choose to use them. Grease or oil 8x8 pan or a circular pan of similar dimensions. (I use coconut oil for this too and a basting brush.) Pour batter into pan. It will be runny. Sprinkle with remainder of chopped walnuts (optional). Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven. Brownies are ready when you stick a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean. Let cool for 2-3 minutes. Slice and serve. Makes 12 brownies.

White Bean Muffins:
1 15 oz.can of Navy or Canellini beans (drain and rinse)
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 mashed bananas
(I have not tested this recipe with the date substitute yet, but probably 1/2 c. would do it.)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

*You can turn this into a chocolate muffin recipe by using black beans and 4 tbsp cacao or coco powder, and removing the nutmeg and doubling the cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350. Blend ingredients in a food processor/blender. Place muffin wrappers in or grease/oil muffin pan. Pour batter into cups until 1/2 full. Bake for 30 minutes. Test center with a fork or toothpick before removing from oven. Let cool 5 minutes. Makes 1 1/2 dozen muffins.

I hope that these simple, inexpensive and good-for-you treats will add value to your family budget, save you some Fun Dollars and keep you and yours on a healthy path.

Happy Spending!

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