Slow Cooker Black Beans & Rice

Growing up, we used to eat black beans over rice about once a week. We would pile on the salsa, sour cream, cheese and other toppings and shovel it in with tortilla chips. Cheap and delicious and the closest we came to burrito bowls over in Germany. The cheap factor (and I love all the flavor!) is one reason I serve this meal in my home now about once a week.
About once a month, I make a big 2 lbs. bag of black beans in the slow cooker and freeze meal-size portions in sandwich bags to use throughout the month. I like to also use the beans for chili, quesadillas, turkey & bean pitas, spaghetti sauce and a number of other things.

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Slow Cooker Black Beans w/Rice

Ingredients:
2 lbs black beans, rinsed & drained
12 cups water
1 onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp salt

Directions:
Rinse & drain the beans, sorting out any small stones, broken, wrinkled, or otherwise misshapen beans. Place all the ingredients except salt in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours (high for 3 hours). Add salt, stir well and let cook for 30 more minutes. Serve over rice and add toppings of choice.

Toppings:
cooked rice
shredded cheese
salsa
sour cream
fresh diced tomatoes
scallions
shredded lettuce
roasted peppers
tortilla chips

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Enjoy!

heidi sign

Crisp Living: 11 Uses for Coconut Oil

I discovered the many magical powers of coconut oil about a year ago. I’ve never really used makeup remover because it’s expensive. I stopped buying frizzy hair tamers because they didn’t seem to work. Now I just buy one product that I use for multiple purposes, with better and healthier results than using so many other products.
Here are some of the ways I use this liquid gold:

1. Baking/cooking – substitute 1 cup for 1 cup of vegetable oil.

2. Frizzy hair calmer – with your hands, run a dime-size amount of coconut oil
 through your hair, mainly getting the ends.

3. Makeup remover – I normally wash my face with soap, then rub on some coconut oil to get whatever’s left. Don’t get it in your eyes!

4. Face moisturizer – dab a little coconut oil all over your face before going to bed (I now look ten years younger!).

5. Lip balm – I like to rub on a little when I moisturize my face.

6. Acne controller/scar smoother – Loren has been using coconut oil on his face to control acne and smooth scars, and it has helped so much.

7. Shaving cream – use just like you would shaving cream. My legs feel smoother after using coconut oil than after using regular shaving cream.

8. Insect Repellent – mix oil with peppermint extract and rub it over exposed skin.

9. Sunburn relief – apply as you would aloe vera. I have found this works way better than aloe. It’s not sticky, you don’t get itchy, it keeps your tan, you don’t peel, etc.

10. Dish soap – just kidding.

11. Teeth cleaner – known as “oil pulling”. I tried this twice and gave up because you have to swish the oil around in your mouth for 20 minutes and I’m just not that patient. But I hear several people have had wonderful results from oil pulling.

Do you use coconut oil? What for?

Crisp Living: 10 Budget Date Night Ideas

Date nights. Everyone loves them. Naturally, we do too! Most of them are pretty simple and budget friendly: dinner at home and then a movie at the dollar theater, taking a walk around our complex and somehow ending up in the fitness center lifting weights, spending the majority of a Friday night listening to podcasts….

Here are some of our favorites:
1. Picnic. Pack that basket and grab a blanket! We’ve already been on a few picnics and they just keep getting better as the weather turns warmer.
2. Fancy Dinner Date at Home. This is one of our favorites. We cook dinner together, set the table a little more formally with lots of candles, dress up fancy (down to the shoes!), dim the lights, turn on some romantic music, then go out and come in the front door and pretend we’re dining at a 5 star reserve-a-table-a-year-in-advance restaurant. Sometime we interview each other like we’re on a first date. 
3. Art Projects. We don’t do this very often, but the few art projects we have done together have been a ton of fun! The projects can be simple, like painting or making necklaces, or more complicated, like building a pallet headboard (on our someday to-do list). Make something you will use to decorate your house, give as gifts or sell.
4. Bike Ride. Get out there and discover new trails together! Like that one bike ride we took when we first moved here. The trail started off nice, then as we kept going, the area got sketchier and sketchier. Who knows where we ended up before we turned around. We’ve explored some new bike trails at some state parks recently and can’t wait to find more!
5. Sight See. We love to explore new places and there are normally lots of free things to do and see in most cities. Just this past Sunday, we spent the evening wandering around Indianapolis and taking in some of its sights. Also check out our recent trip to Chicago

6. Coffee Date. If you haven’t already caught on to this, we both really like coffee and discovering new coffee shops around town. Especially on days when Loren doesn’t have to study and we can actually chat while we sip coffee. Sometimes we make up stories about the people we see in the coffee shop until the stories get really out of hand.

7. Drive-In Movie. This is probably the most fun if you have a truck, an air mattress and lots of blankets. We have yet to make it to our local drive-in theater (thanks, rainy summer), but we will!

8. YouTube Dancing Lessons. This is totally free. If you don’t know how to dance, like us, look up a basic dancing instruction video first. Once you get the hang of that, try out different styles. This was our date night a few weeks ago, and it was a hilarious blast. 

9. Pool Day. We haven’t been to our pool yet, but I definitely want to very soon with a slushy, a good book and the best company (yes, I mean Loren)!

10. Photo Scavenger Hunt. Get some friends together, maybe another couple or two, make it a double or triple date and go scavenging around the city. Make a list of items to photograph and see which couple works best together getting pictures!

And of course during the summer, it’s necessary to end your date night with ice cream.

What are some of your favorite date night ideas?

Crisp Living: Budget Phone Plan (Ting Review)

Loren and I have both wanted to get smartphones for a while. Life really is fine without one, but they are also super convenient and helpful for SO many reasons. But we couldn’t afford them with our current phone plan. We were paying $60/month (for two phones) for talk & text, which isn’t bad, but we didn’t want to go over that in paying for data. 
A while back I had heard about this cell phone service called ting and about how great it was. I quickly forgot about it, since everyone has “the best” phone service plan. But then I came across it again on a “life on a budget” blog (Frugality Gal) and did a lot more research on it. After researching and convincing ourselves to try something new, we switched over to ting,  got smartphones and are now living happily ever after. 

It works like this:
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From ting website
You can either bring your own device (must be Sprint) or buy one from ting or cheaper places (we used Swappa).

We’ve been using ting for about 3 months now and it has been wonderful. No problems with coverage, billing, etc., and the customer service is top-notch. We haven’t paid more than $50/month (mostly under $40) for two phones with talk/text/data.

If this is something you are interested in, use this referral code and get $25 credit (which goes a really long way) when you sign up!

Crisp Living: Slow Cooker Roasted Chicken

We love chicken around here. There’s so much you can do with it! Normally, I buy one whole 5-6 lb. chicken at Aldi for us to eat throughout the week. And here is how I prepare my whole chicken in the crock pot:
Slow Cooker Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:
1 5-6 lb. whole chicken
3 tsp steak seasoning
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp chili powder

1. Place 4 small aluminum foil balls in the bottom of the crockpot. This makes the chicken easier to remove later.

2. Remove any insides and rinse well with cold water. Carefully place inside the crockpot and season inside and out.
3. Cook chicken on high for 4 to 4 1/2 hours.
4.  Let the chicken rest on a cutting board for about 20 minutes before carving/deboning.
Once the chicken has cooled off, I tear off the thighs before deboning the rest. That way, I can serve one meal of chicken thighs and shred the rest for soup, pasta & rice dishes, chicken quesadillas,  etc.
Last time I roasted a whole chicken, I kept the bones and decided to try my hand at chicken stock. It turned out pretty well! Another way to save money by not having to buy chicken broth!

Chicken Stock:

Ingredients:
chicken bones
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalk celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups water

1.  Throw everything in the crockpot and cook on low for 24 hours.

2. Let cool, then strain through a sieve into a large pot and discard the solids.

3. Distribute the liquid between 3 2-quarts jars and either refrigerate (2-3 days) or freeze.

And that’s it! What is something you make in your slow cooker to save money?

Crisp Living: Little Things that Save Us Lots

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” Epictetus

Today I was thinking about ways we currently save money and thought I would share a few with you!

Coffee: use regular coffee grounds in these refillable coffee filters for the Keurig–way cheaper than buying K-Cups every week.

Water Filter: the water is kind of rough here, but instead of buying bottled water, we filter. And we pretty much stick to only drinking water (and coffee, of course).

Slow Cooker: throwing stuff in the crock pot before work saves time, energy and smells delicious when I walk in the door after work.

One Pot Meals: only have to use one burner, saves on water washing dishes .

Laundry: save quarters and only wash, then air dry the laundry (makes the apartment smell like clean laundry!).

Lights: only keep lights on in the room we are occupying; every penny saved on that electric bill counts!

General Repurposing and Reusing: if I need something (like a desktop organizer), I first look around at home to see if I have anything that can be recycled into what I need before buying.

What are some ways you save money around your home? I would love to hear your tips and tricks!

Crisp Living: Grocery Shopping

I hate shopping. I literally get exhausted after 5 minutes in the mall. But grocery shopping is a whole other story. I love it! Weird, I know. But I love going to the store clutching my precious list and pen while trying to navigate my cart and pretend I know what I’m doing. Since we’ve gotten married and I’ve been in charge of meal making and grocery shopping, I’ve learned some ways to help us save in the that department.
LISTS. I love whipping out my pen and writing down everything I need for the week, normally in order of the store aisles. I make this list my best shopping friend and stick to it like nobody else! I have my staples I pick up every week, but my list slightly varies every week, depending on if we need toilet paper or sugar or flour or sandwich bags. Occasionally, I find room to leave a couple dollars for a special treat.
ALDI. My little slice of Germany. Did you know they originated from there? They even sell German goodies sometimes. I love this place! It’s much smaller that Walmart, Kroger, Meijer, etc. (I hate big stores) and has almost everything I need at way cheaper prices.
CASH. ALDI only takes cash or debit cards, which brings me to my next point.
Grocery shop with cash. And take only the cash you know you will need. You can’t spend money you don’t have!
COUPON & SALES. Do you know how many people don’t pay attention to sales? I don’t know. All I know is that I’m one of those people who meticulously goes over the sales papers every week to aid my decision making. We have a fresh food market super close to us, and they normally have the cheapest & freshest fruit, but sometimes ALDI still beats their prices. If ALDI doesn’t have something I need (deodorant, body wash, dish soap), I check Kroger’s online coupons. Kroger always has coupons for something, and I especially like using theirs because I can just download the coupon onto my Kroger card and when I scan my card at the store, the coupon is instantly available. No paper hassle!
What are some ways you save money on grocery shopping? I would love to hear some of your tips and tricks!

Crisp Living: No TV

There are so many suggestions out there in the big world on how to save money.  During this grad school season of life, living on our budget pretty much means we only buy the essentials (food, rent, electricity, grad school bills…you get the picture), so it makes spending unnecessary money a bit easier–because there’s nothing left to spend on unnecessary purchases. We could pile up all kinds of bills onto our credit card, but have decided to stay away from that because debt isn’t healthy. Anyway, I’m going to start a series on how we survive quite well on our limited budget.

Today’s topic: TV/cable.

Whenever I get asked about having seen something on TV, the conversation generally goes like this:

“Well, we actually don’t have a TV or cable.”

I get two one of two answers in return.

“What??!! You don’t have cable? How do you survive?”
or
“That’s probably a good thing. Don’t get hooked. There’s nothing really worth watching and it’s way too expensive.”

We survive quite well, thank you very much. I agree with the second statement. We do currently have Netflix. With tons of shows at our fingertips and at $8 a month, we decided this was something we could handle as our entertainment source. And as far as keeping up with the news and weather reports, that what weather and news apps are for, right?

A Trip to Texas

As promised, here is finally my post on our recent trip to Texas. This story actually goes back to a couple months ago. My car was having several major issues. We took it in to get evaluated, and it was going to be an exorbitant amount to fix, so we started looking for a cheaper, reliable shop to possibly have the car repaired at. (Side note, if you’d like to buy a fabulous little gray Volkswagen Beetle, I could probably make that dream come true for you.)

Fast forward a couple days. Loren called me on his way home from school saying that his car was making horrible noises and he hoped he would make it home. We knew it needed an oil change, so I went ahead and scheduled that appointment for him first thing the next morning, knowing that we would also get a diagnostic on what else was wrong. Turns out, he needed some immediate work done so that the car was even driveable. He went ahead and had the necessary fix done and we were set back a little further with the repairs my car needed (his car still needed other repairs). Since we both require cars to drive our separate ways to work/school, we prayed and discussed several possible solutions that would be the wisest. In the end we decided to sell my car and find a good, cheap car in the area. We didn’t really know what to look for and who to trust, but we slowly started into that process anyway.

Then, a few weeks ago, my sister in Mexico messaged and asked if any of us sisters stateside needed a car, as they had to buy a new one in Mexico and wanted to give away their current one. All we had to do was buy one-way flights to Texas to pick up the car, and it was ours! Talk about perfect timing! So long story short, Heather found some amazingly cheap one-way flights to TX and the next week, we found ourselves on a plane. And since we were picking up the car from Heather & Jason, naturally we got to see them and the niece and nephew. 🙂

I was super excited for several reasons, but especially because I love flying and this was the first time I got to fly with Loren AND we were getting to see family AND we were going to take a very long road trip.

Unfortunately, Heather & the kids were sick, and I didn’t get very many pictures of our time with them (I really need to work on this. New Year’s Resolution?), but we still had a fantastic time seeing them.

We flew down the Monday before Christmas and wanted to be back in Indy for Christmas. This meant a 23 hour road trip to get back by Christmas Eve morning. But armed with snacks, audio books, music, water, a German book for Loren to read and me to translate, and fun car games, we were up for the trip. And we made it in exactly 23 hours. The trip was actually not as hard as I thought it would be. Between the clear traffic, driver switching every 1-3 hours and activities we brought (or made up), the time flew by pretty quickly.

One way we stayed motivated was taking a selfie and a picture of the road [almost] every hour. To your relief, we didn’t get a picture every hour, as we didn’t start till about 2 hours in and kind of tapered off when it got dark. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will let these pictures do the talking.

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Finally home!!!
And that pretty sums it all up! There is so much more I could write about this, but we are SO grateful for the Lord’s provision, timing and safety, as well as the generosity of family!

**I do apologize for the lower quality of pictures, courtesy of my iPad.**