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Sunday, July 7th, 2013
2 years, 7 months.
I can barely remember it, but for the first five months of our marriage, Mommy and I didn’t have any dietary restrictions.
Whenever we took a road trip, we didn’t have to consider where or what we could eat; just where and what we didn’t want to eat.
Then we went kosher in November 2008, and vegetarian in December 2011, then I went vegan in March 2013; as you and Mommy are pretty much there with me too by now.
With that being said, gone are the days of not having to carefully plan out in advance every single meal and snack over the course of a road trip.
As you know, this past weekend for our 5 year wedding anniversary, Mommy and I decided to take you along for a mini-road trip; a 2 and a half hour drive to Louisville, Kentucky.
Using hotel points we had earned last year, we made it an overnight trip and visited the magnificent Louisville Zoo.
Just as we had to plan out in advance which hotel we’d be staying in, making sure we could not only redeem our points there but also that it was closest to the zoo, we additionally had to find out its proximity to the nearest Whole Foods Market.
Basically, we packed half the food we would need, including plenty of water and snacks; then bought the other half of the food at Whole Foods the next morning.
We dined on veggie wraps, fruit snacks, and bottled water in the parking lot. It was like a picnic in our car; fortunately, it was the perfect weather for it… not too hot or wet.
Plus, I knew from previous visits to Loiusville that the city is laced with 14 different Heine Brothers’ Coffee shops. Not only is their coffee perfect, which Mommy and I could definitely appreciate as a fun way to start the day, but they also have plenty of vegan options for snacks.
So was it difficult to make our road trip a health-conscious one? No, because we carefully planned for it.
But was the actual driving part of the road trip difficult because it threw off your sleep schedule? Absolutely!
(That’s a whole different story and I plan to tell it in the near future.)
Our mini-road trip served as necessary practice for the big one up ahead in a few weeks, when we will be taking our annual family vacation in Sacramento to see Mommy’s family.
It’s one thing to avoid eating at restaurants for 23 hours, but another thing when we’re staying at someone else’s house for over a week and trying not to become a burden because of our alternative lifestyle.
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Friday, July 5th, 2013
2 years, 7 months.
Today is a very special day… for more than one reason.
It was five years ago that Mommy and I got married!
We had talked a couple of weeks ago about what we would get each other as 5th year anniversary gifts. Well, we couldn’t have planned this, even if we tried, but…
As of today, our family is officially debt-free!
I can’t think of any greater gift Mommy and I could give each other on this special day.
Of course, we still have a mortgage. But as far as school loans, car payments, and our credit card, which mainly consisted of our wedding expenses and pre-existing debts from single life, those are all paid off now.
No other debts. Done.
Just to make sure this good news holds its worth weight, the amount of debt we paid off was a little over $58,000. And just to be clear, our household income level is completely average for Nashville.
No, Mommy and I didn’t win the lottery, gain a huge inheritance from a rich uncle, or suddenly get a multi-million dollar book deal.
We just took Dave Ramsey very seriously. Maybe a little too seriously.
I now equate credit cards with the devil, or at least Monsanto; but really, I think they’re all the same thing anyway.
Every penny we earn is accounted for. We tell our money where to go so that it doesn’t tell us where to go. We snowballed our way into debt and we snowballed our way out.
Another thing that financial guru Dave Ramsey taught us was that if we live like no one else now, we’ll live like no one else in the future.
He jokingly talks about living off beans and rice until you’re debt-free.
Considering that through this process, you and Mommy became vegetarians, and I became a vegan, you could say we took Dave Ramsey’s “beans and rice” advice pretty literally, even though our “plant-based, non-GMO” lifestyle change was motivated more by other reasons.
Either way, our family never, and I do mean never, eats food from a restaurant anymore. That saves us a lot of money every month.
Speaking of, on January 1st, I wrote “5 Impractical Ways To Save Your Family Money in 2013,” in which I proclaimed that this would be the year we would become debt-free.
Here are the 5 ways I mentioned:
1. We don’t pay for cable or satellite TV.
2. We don’t pay for Internet on our phones.
3. We hardly ever go out to eat. (That, of course, has since changed from “hardly ever” to “never.”)
4. We don’t update our electronics or possessions that cost over $100.
5. We live by a strict weekly budget, on an Excel spreadsheet.
Then, a week after I wrote that, I revealed that we also tithe 10% of our income. As Dave Ramsey puts it, “If you cannot live off 90% of your income, then you cannot live off 100%.”
Oh, and I cut your hair now. That saves us about 12 bucks a month.
I’ve never been so happy in my life to be at ground zero. Our family will continue the rest of our lives with our extremely frugal (!) lifestyle no matter what our income is.
Now that we’re out of debt, we will begin to snowball our savings and eventually our investments.
Granted, one of the greatest benefits of strategically working our way out of nearly $60,000 of debt is that Mommy and I will carefully teach you everything we’ve had to learn the hard way about money management.
Apparently, that knowledge alone is worth at least $60,000. It was for us, at least.
Photos by Joe Hendricks Photography.
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Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
2 years, 5 months.
You were born in an interesting age, to interesting parents, who happened to be part of the rapidly growing minority of Americans who choose to live a lifestyle in which animal products are shunned for the sake of strict veganism (like me) or strict vegetarianism (like Mommy.)
As for you, you’re the kid caught in the middle of it, not realizing that we are making an important decision for you; at least for now. (What an appropriate shirt for you to be wearing today: Pizza vs. Broccoli.)
It used to be that vegans and vegetarians were perceived as predictable stereotypes; hippies who didn’t bathe. Not to mention, they looked down on anyone who didn’t share the same lifestyle and beliefs as they did.
I think of those animal rights ads that use shock value to get the attention of carnivores, often using images of nearly nude women or the slaughter of animals.
That’s not me or what I stand for.
The truth is, I don’t want everyone to go vegan, like me. Just as important, I don’t think everyone should be vegan. It’s not for everybody.
I don’t believe in forcing or pressuring my beliefs upon anyone for any reason. If someone is influenced by a conversation of mine, then so be it- that happens everyday to everybody.
Part of the process of becoming an individual is by (ironically?) collecting the ideas of other people you respect. That process, which included several pivotal documentaries on Netflix, led me to my extreme (yet not-that-weird-anymore) lifestyle.
Really, though, the main reason I don’t want everyone to become a vegan is because it seems like that would drive up the demand for organic foods, causing a shortage in supply, causing a hike in the prices of our groceries.
I’m not convinced there’s enough organic kale and chia seeds for even half of America to live this way.
So I best stop talking about how happy I am to have found this lifestyle and the positive health benefits (as well as, peace of mind) it brings our family.
It’s funny to think how 5 years ago, no one could have paid me enough money to go vegan for the rest of my life. Now, I’m trying to think how much money would be enough for me to go back to my former lifestyle, permanently.
I best stop trying to make our family seem relatively normal and decent.
However, to not share helpful and relevant information to curious people; well, that just seems selfish.
Hmm… the classic vegan dilemma.
I’m stressing out a little bit now. I need some vegan chocolate cookies…
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Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
2 years, 4 months.
In theory, a family who buys no meat products should have a lower grocery bill each week. We don’t, though.
However, we still spend less money on food; it just depends on a person’s definition of groceries…
As you lifted up the “tailgate” (box flap) of your “pick-up truck” (Chobani yogurt box) and started to “drive it” (pinched the box with a pair of salad tongs) it somehow prompted me to discuss with Mommy how much our grocery bill has went up or down, compared to the days before we were aware of things like Yellow 5, sodium laurel sulfate, and Monsanto.
Our grocery bill is actually the same amount as it was when we were carnivores. This is because we make up for the cost of meat by buying higher quality (and more expensive) vegetables, fruits, and grains.
It’s not just about avoiding meat, it’s about avoiding toxic chemicals like artificial colors, flavors, MSG, and GMO’s.
Since our conversion, we have learned there are actually few food brands that we trust anymore. One of the few is Chobani.
While most brands try to disguise their ingredients, Chobani is very clear about what is and is not in their products.
They are one of the few exceptions we have found; as well as Annie’s Homegrown. We simply ignore most other brands, because we don’t trust them.
We are paying for quality and it’s worth it, to us.
So even though our grocery bill is the same, what has definitely changed is the amount of money we spend on eating at restaurants. It used to be between $100 and $200 a month, now it’s basically zero.
It’s not a moral issue; instead, it just seems pointless by now. Mommy has, by default, become a vegan/vegetarian chef for our family; thanks in part to the Oh She Glows recipe website.
Making delicious healthy meals is now becoming a sacred (and fun) thing for our family. It is difficult for us to trust random strangers at restaurants who we have to assume may be cooking our food in or with mysterious chemicals. Not to mention, a restaurant meal typically doesn’t ensure leftovers for lunch the next day, the way a home-cooked meal easily does.
To answer the question of whether it’s cheaper to go vegan/vegetarian, the answer is ultimately yes. We now save between at least $100 to $200 a month by simply avoiding restaurants alone.
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Friday, April 5th, 2013
2 years, 4 months.
Two days ago on The Huffington Post, an article was published entitled “Interest In Vegan Diets On The Rise: Google Trends Notes Public’s Increased Curiosity In Veganism.”
The title intrigued me, as I have recently been noticing that several of my Facebook friends have been discussing the fact that their families have either began leaning towards being vegans or have recently officially converted.
Sure, maybe I’m more keen to notice, since my own conversion from vegetarianism to veganism a month ago. But after reading the article, I realized it wasn’t just in my head:
“A 2012 study commissioned by the Vegetarian Resource Group and undertaken by Harris Interactive found that the 2.5 percent of the country identified themselves as “vegan,” up from 1 percent in 2009. That may not seem like a drastic leap, but it is when you consider that the number of vegans has more than doubled in just three years.”
My own downward spiral began with a severe and “incurable” case of eczema which led me to going kosher and cutting out processed sugar, which encouraged me to start actually eating real fruit and veggies.
Then I stopped craving meat because I was eating more whole fruits and vegetables. Then the thought of cheese started grossing me out. Now all the food I eat comes from plants; no animals- no meat, no eggs, no dairy… I even avoid honey.
Now, it’s like I constantly feel a buzz; a buzz in which I am alert, my thoughts are clear and quick, and my sinus and allergy problems have all gone away.
What about the fact I can’t eat birthday cakes or doughnuts or ice cream anymore? I don’t miss those things. I don’t desire to have my mood or physical state of being lifted, because it’s already there.
I don’t want to mess with this buzz. That’s what will happen if I eat animal products again, so I’m not even tempted.
Not to mention, I’m staying plenty full off all the protein, fiber, and nutrients I’m getting from just fruits, vegetables, whole grain rice and pasta, beans, seeds, and plenty of water.
As for my 32nd birthday coming up in a couple weeks, you and Mommy are currently practicing recipes from the vegan recipe blog, Oh She Glows.
So why are vegan Facebook status updates showing up in news feeds? Here’s what I think:
1. More “normal” people are doing it now, not just expected stereotypes. (Am I considering myself as one of the normal ones?)
2. This may disprove the sentence before this one, but more celebrities are now vegan and that influences the rest of us sometimes more than we realize.
3. The majority of daily Facebook users are from “Generation Why,” as in, “Why am I eating mysterious ingredients that are linked to obesity, depression, hyperactivity, cancer, and diabetes?”
4. Netflix streaming, which was quite instrumental in my conversion, is providing us with information we didn’t have access to before; like about the treatment of the animals we eat, the relationship between eating animal proteins and cancer, and realizing that plants themselves provide all the nutrition we need to begin with. I challenge anyone to watch all the following documentaries and keep from going vegan:
Supersize Me, Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and Hungry For A Change.
5. The price of meat is rising, even with factory-farmed animals eating that infamous Monsanto corn.
Knowing that the number of vegans has more than doubled in the past three years alone, I wonder what will happen in the next three years… especially if seemingly normal people keep talking about it on Facebook.
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