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Why I’m switching to the Dollar Diet

Stands on soapbox.

Taps mic.

‘Ahem, is this thing on?  Oh good.’

So, my regular readers will note that my weekly personal finance posts now have a new title.  This is because I was asked by the person who came up with the concept of a [insert old title here] to remove ALL reference to [insert old title here] in my blog as it is a registered trademark.  I did think this was a bit on the nose as I have never misrepresented [insert old title here] as being my idea.  I am merely someone who is trying a ‘product’ or in this case a concept, and reviewing how it is working for me.  But then, I do not live in litigious America and have a trademark to vigorously defend.  So apologies to Anna.  I have done as you asked.
Let the proclamation ring out across the land…or internet…that my blogging about my year of watching my pennies will henceforth be called the Dollar Diet.

Gets off soapbox.

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Trim Healthy Thursday: Two months in

Okay, so I’m going to do something very vulnerable.  I’m going to share my before and after pictures.

I remembered to take some ‘before’ pictures so I could track my progress but hadn’t been bothered about taking any more because I thought it would be too soon to see any changes.  However, many people post their pictures on THM Facebook pages – some people even after attempting THM for a week.  And you know what?  You can totally see a difference.  What really spurred me one was one lady commenting that even though the scales hadn’t budged in ages for her, she’d still dropped THREE dress sizes.  While out shopping this week I was stunned to discover I could fit into clothes that were two sizes smaller than pre-THM.  So I dusted off the camera.

Here goes:

Two months on THM

Two months on THM

I can see that I have lost quite a bit of weight around my mid-section, my arms and my face.  I even have a waist.

Whilst I am reluctant to share these pictures with the interweb, I hope that others doing THM are encouraged.  You may not see the numbers on the scale decrease to your liking, but things will be happening nonetheless.

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Dollar Diet: Week 15, getting in to old clothes

We’ve been chugging along pretty well with our Dollar Diet, but I must confess that I broke my ‘no new clothes’ rule this week.  I felt guilty, but then again I felt like I had shopped for the right reasons for a change!

I’ve been having a tough time with something in my personal life.  Fortunately I have some solid people around me, some of whom are skilled in counselling and psychology, and I have been able to talk things through with them.  ‘You need to practice some good self-care while this is going on, Angela’ one of them said.  I knew my friend was right, as my needs are often the last that I attend to.  I immediately drew up a list of nice things I could do for myself.

Unfortunately, shopping was at the top of my list.  Sigh.  I’d love for bubble baths, walks along the beach and other free things to be at the top of that list.  I really would.  I adore going galleries, museums, and having a good chat with my friends.  But there is still nothing that perks me up faster than trawling an op-shop.  Sad, I know!  I even said to myself ‘You could just look, but not buy anything’.  I swear I went to my favourite op-shop with that intention.  D encouraged me to go, and kindly provided childcare so I could do whatever I wanted to for an afternoon.  I spent a wonderful two hours perusing the op-shop, and especially had a ball when I discovered I could get into clothes that were two sizes smaller since starting Trim Healthy Mama!  Oh yeah.  That felt pretty damn good.  I spent the princely sum of $9 on a top for myself and came home feeling really good.

So, my shopping expedition served it purpose as I am in a much better frame of mind, but I am choosing to practice even better self-care by not going back to my former bargain-hunting ways.  I DON’T NEED ANY CLOTHES.  I just don’t.  Next time I feel the urge to go shopping I will repeat this phrase to myself over and over and over.  The fact is, that despite being two dress sizes down, I still have a whole closet of clothes I can wear as I have a couple of suitcases stuffed with smaller clothes that I’ve been hanging onto.  You know, just in case.  D is also reaping the benefits of our sugar-free, THM lifestyle (why do men lose weight so much faster than women?), and is enjoying fitting into his smaller clothes once more.  He reckons THM is’ very spending fast’ because he hasn’t had to buy any new clothes now that his old ones fit so well again.

Anyway, this week has been very frugal as it is currently school holidays, so we have no play groups to attend.  The kids and I have mostly hung around at home (the weather has been typically appalling), and I’ve found plenty of free things for us to do.  As I said in my last post, we went to an Open Day at our local Fire Station and boogied on down at a family-friendly dance party.  We’ve hung out with friends at their homes instead of cafes.  We’ve got books out from the library.  Sausage and I have made crafts from stuff lying around the house.  D has been a feijoa peeling machine and has stashed away several tonnes of it for us to use in the weeks to come.

Just normal, no money-needed activities.  I really am learning that you don’t need lots of money to live well.

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How to have fun for free

I live in ‘provincial’ New Zealand.

Whanganui has about 43,000 people.  It’s not huge.  I spent most of my teenage years dying to get out of it, so it was with some sense of irony that I found myself voluntarily moving back here with my own family after a 20 year absence.  There were many reasons that D and I moved from Wellington, the coolest little capital on the planet.  The cheap house prices were one.  The family-friendly vibe was another.  The fact that you can always find a parking space is an added bonus.

Moving to our home in Tawhero was definitely counter-cultural.  People seem to think that if you live in a big city, you have ‘made it’.  If you have a corporate job and a nice house, your life is a ‘success’.  By this measure, D and I were indeed successful. The fact that we wanted to give up the trappings of success and move to small-town NZ blew some people’s minds.  “You’ll get bored” I was told.  “It’s career-suicide” someone said.  “Why on earth would you want to move there?” challenged a friend.

Well guess what?

I’m never bored here.

I have, for some reason, always been one of those people who knows about all the cool stuff there is to do.  I’ve lived in small towns, big cities and in three different countries, and I have always, always, always found plenty of ways to pass the time.  For example, when I lived in London you’d rarely find me at home.  Come Monday morning my colleagues would ask “So where did you end up this time Angela?” and I always had lots to tell them.  I didn’t have a fat bank account.  Much of the things my friends and I did for fun were free.  I just knew where to find out the inside scoop.

Now of course, Whanganui is a far cry from London.  But if I wanted to, I could do really interesting things every day of the week.  There are family-friendly events on almost every weekend here, too many for me to keep up with.  This past weekend alone there was an open day at the Fire Station (which had been refurbished) and a family dance party in the middle of town with dancing sensation, Tommy Franklin.

The firefighters put on several demonstrations

The firefighters put on several demonstrations

Tommy Franklin doing his thing

Tommy Franklin doing his thing

Getting ready for a mass high-five

Getting ready for a mass high-five

Whether you live somewhere big or small, there is always free or frugal fun to be had.

How to find all that fun stuff:

  • Community newspapers.  These are a wonderful source of information.  Lots of people don’t subscribe to their local newspaper anymore, but you can be sure that they read their local freebie paper.  You will often see events listed in here that aren’t in mainstream newspapers, as event organisers on a shoe-string go where they will get more bang for their buck due to higher readership of free community newspapers. Similarly, if an event wants to attract families or those on a low-income, they know to advertise where their target readers actually have a chance of seeing it.  Ergo, if you want a free or cheap event to go to, look in the free papers.
  • Mainstream newspapers.  If you don’t subscribe to one, check out their website or Facebook page to get up-to-date information about what’s happening in your town.
  • Local Facebook groups.  I’ve lost count of how many Whanganui-based Facebook groups there are!  I find many events on a local FB page called Whanganui Mummies where mum’s will often share what’s happening around town.  In your neck of the woods there might be other social media that are more popular, so head there first.
  • Local radio stations.  Not only will they know about all the big events happening in your town, they will often know about all the cool events (not always the same thing!) too.
  • Join email lists.  I am regularly updated as to what’s going on with several community groups, businesses, amenities and at our great Museum.  I have been invited to book launches, art gallery openings, poetry evenings, in-store VIP customer nights, lectures, workshops, comedy nights, gigs and more.  All free.
  • Community noticeboards.  Library noticeboards, supermarket noticeboards, noticeboards outside a church or cafe are all excellent places to spot posters for what’s going on in your town.
  • Ditto your local information centre if your town is big enough to have one.
  • Look around you.  Quite seriously, look around you.  Posters on lamp posts, on bus shelters, on the back of buses, billboards on the side of the road are the friend of frugulistas in need of something to do.
  • Ask around.  Simply saying ‘So, what are you up to this weekend?’ may yield instant results as your friend raves to you about an upcoming free bluegrass gig or invites you to go strawberry picking with them.
  • Make your own fun.  I once lived in a city that was very challenging due to cultural and language differences.  It was hard work.  But you know what?  It was fine because I had a good bunch of friends.  You can have fun anywhere if you have a few good people around you.  Heck, even if it’s just ONE friend.  Get together to visit an art gallery, or go hiking, to play a board game, to eat pancakes in your pyjamas at 2pm.  This weekend we are hosting a fish n’ chips/movie night with a whole gaggle of children so us parents can get a break, crack open a bottle of wine and have a good old chinwag.  Fun stuff doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated.
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Free things to do in Whanganui: Gordon Park Scenic Reserve (local content)

Gordon Park Scenic Reserve is also known by locals as ‘Gordon’s Bush’ or ‘Gordon Park’.  Situated on the corner of No. 3 Line and Kaimatira Road, Gordon Park is a 10 minute drive from downtown Whanganui.  There is a small car park on Kaimatira Road, and there is a picnic table near the entrance to the walkway.

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The reserve is small, only 14.5 hectares, but it is the perfect place to take your tots on a nature walk.  Despite the small size, I still felt like I was away from the hubbub of the city. Oh, the entire walkway is wheelchair accessible.  Let me say that again. THE ENTIRE WALKWAY IS WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE!!!  How awesome is that?  The track is perfect for people with mobility issues, or tots in a stroller.

Off we go

Off we go

The reserve has a wide loop track that meanders around the bush.  Normally you could probably walk it in 10 minutes, but with little kids it might take you 30 minutes or more, depending on how much they want to explore.

There are many wonderful things to see and hear during your visit.

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The forest has Kahikatea, Tawa, Matai and Kowhai, and is a popular place for native birds to hang out, judging by the raucous birdsong on the day we visited.

A perfect wee spot to stretch wriggly little legs.  I can see us going back here again and again.

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Trim Healthy Thursday: The end?

Not the best week at sticking to THM. I had two meals out at friends, one of which was a pizza party, which is pretty much as bad as it gets in THM land.  I just don’t want to be ‘that guest’ who is a pain to cook for.  Unless someone is really interested in the way I’m eating and has asked if they could make something specially for me, I just shut up and eat what is put in front of me.

I failed to buy enough THM food for myself to last over the Easter break, so I overdid it on the carbs again  I had to resort to sandwiches one day (the supermarkets shut in NZ on Good Friday and Easter Sunday), and I also had some roast potato and kumara with our special Easter Sunday meal.  After eating bread I noticed I got really tired.  Interesting, especially as there are no preservatives in our home made bread, which can often be what causes fatigue in some people.

But I have been back on plan for several days and am branching out into THM bread, making Cheesy Rolls and Pan Bread.  Everything has been really simple – S breakfasts, E lunches and mostly S dinners.

THM Cheesy Rolls (no carbs)

THM Cheesy Rolls (no carbs)

Giving Trim Healthy Mama a go for two months was a New Year’s resolution of mine.  I’m really proud of myself for sticking with it.  Am I going to continue?  You bet!  Eating the THM way hasn’t been difficult and has been a source of some delicious, nutritious recipes.  I haven’t always gotten things right, but hell, who does?  I continue to be inspired by the weight loss testimonies that appear on THM Facebook pages daily.  Not just from people who needed to loose a few pounds, but from people who were seriously overweight, and who, like me, have struggled with their weight for years.  So here’s to more weeks of THM!

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Dollar Diet: Week 14, in which I fail to plan

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We had a wonderful surprise this week, one that means most of our future Dollar Diet savings for 2015 can be put towards paying off our new car (we still haven’t sold the old one) instead of paying for D and Sausage’s trip to the Netherlands.  D’s Opa gave him $1000 euros towards the flights (so, so generous)!

Annoyingly, my ninja meal planning skills failed this week, resulting in several trips to get groceries instead of the usual one.  I didn’t get quite enough breakfast and lunch food for myself.  This meant I found it hard to stick to Trim Healthy Mama on the days the supermarkets were shut.  Ah well, I’ll do better next time.  We came in under budget, even with splashing out on a leg of lamb for Easter Sunday.  That leg of lamb went the distance as I eked out generous portions of roast lamb for our special dinner, lamb sandwiches, a gorgeous lamb curry (I even used leftover veges from the Easter dinner – I am so Dollar Diet), and I made stock from the bones.  Leftover kumara (sweet potato) was pureed into yummy solids for Chip.

A big savings this week is D tightening his handyman belt and getting stuck into making fences himself.  We need a couple of fences at the sides of our house so the children can play in the backyard and be safe from cars coming and going in our front yard.  We could have paid someone to do it, and D did look at getting prefabricated panels, but it was much cheaper (of course) for him to do it all.

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D reports that he’s really enjoying the process of fence building so far, and is delighted his high school classes of technical drawing and woodworking have come in useful after all.  There is a great deal of pleasure to be had in making something yourself, and this creativity can get squashed out of us due to the demands of daily life.  Who has the time or the mental energy to devote to hobbies when you are working 40+ hours a week at a job you don’t like just to scrape by?  I’m sure this is why many people waste their evenings blobbed out in front of the TV.

Our Easter break activities were very frugal (barring the roast lamb!).  We spent most of it either at home, church or with family and friends.  A friend held a wonderful Easter egg hunt/pizza night at her place, thereby introducing Sausage to the joys of chocolate eggs.  I was a bit sick over the weekend so D and I kept our evenings really low-key.  We downloaded a couple of movies (we thought How to Train Your Dragon was great; Guardians of the Galaxy not so much), and I did something I rarely do – I watched a TV show.  I loved, loved, loved the Carrie Underwood version of The Sound of Music (who knew Stephen Moyer could sing?!).  I read several books.  We took the kids to a nature reserve so we could enjoy a walk in the ‘bush’, as we call it.  It did not disappoint.  The reserve was small, but the birdsong was lusty and sonorous.  It was a great end to the week.