Minimalism and Your Diet

This is a sponsored post.

Have you ever wondered how simplicity and minimalism can help you eat a better? I know I talk mostly about tossing kitchen equipment and having fewer spatulas on this blog but I was recently asked to write about minimalism and diet and found some great ideas for simplifying your nutrition for better health. I would love it if you included any of your own tips in the comments. Many of these are easy to implement and immediate – no special appliance needed!

Minimalism and Your Diet

As a minimalist, you are probably looking for new areas to apply your minimalist philosophy beyond your closet and kitchen cupboards. How about applying minimalism to your diet? Eating less and eating foods with fewer ingredients can improve your health and minimize your environmental impact. Here are a few ideas to help you start looking for ways to simplify your food consumption.

Start With the Essentials

Start minimalizing your diet by thinking about the nutrients that are essential for living a healthy life. Getting the right balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in your daily diet will help you to be healthier, feel better in your skin, and have more energy to do the things you really want to do with your life. Your meals are how you provide your body with the building blocks it needs to renew itself. Think about food as fuel first, and pleasure second, and you will be on the right track towards applying minimalism to your diet.
 
Eat Less

This may seem obvious but a minimalist diet could simply start with snacking less. How many times per day do you eat? There are different approaches to how best to eat that depend on your current health status, your level of athletic activity, and your basic metabolism. If you are in reasonably good health and not training for a marathon, consider simplifying your eating by eating less. Create a little rule to guide your new habit, like replacing your afternoon snack with an invigorating walk, or no eating after eight in the evening – I’ve heard some people close their kitchen after the dinner dishes to discourage evening snacking. The right approach to eating less will vary from person to person, just look for somewhere that you could cut back.

Eat Foods with Fewer Ingredients

Simplicity can be found in a meal consisting of just a few pieces of real food: a lunch of an apple with cheese and bread or crackers. Read food labels and try to stick to foods whose ingredients you recognize, as well as eating foods with the smallest number of ingredients you can find. Ideal foods would be fruits and vegetables, which don’t even come with nutrition labels. Once you venture into processed foods, the minimalist approach may lead you to look for simpler alternatives to some of your favorites. Instead of bottled salad dressing, just sprinkle some oil and vinegar on your salad. Instead of the usual mayonnaise, try making your own from eggs and oil, or try Just Mayo from Hampton Creek, a vegan mayo alternative with recognizable ingredients.

Eat Lower on the Food Chain

Try minimizing the impact your diet has on the planet by going vegan for one day per week, or try Mark Bittman’s approach of going vegan before six in the evening. About 25 gallons of water are required to raise one pound of wheat, but 2,500 gallons of water are required to raise one pound of beef. Eating less meat, replacing it with vegetables and legumes, minimizes the strain our food production system puts on the environment.

Prioritize Quality

Minimalism isn’t about being ascetic, it is about simplifying your life in ways that make sense to you. Having fewer things often means you can afford better things. This is a huge advantage with food. If you are eating less and wasting less, then you can buy higher quality foods. Buying high-quality locally grown produce will change the way you think about fruits and vegetables. Sweet summer vegetables from a farm 20 miles from your house picked earlier that day are so delicious that they require little preparation, and deliver high satisfaction. We’ve been buying vegetables and fruits through a local CSA and it’s not only introduced us to some new to us foods – fresh artichokes! – but the higher investment cost has made me even more mindful of food waste.

Prepare Simple Meals

Simplify your diet, and your life, by preparing simple meals. A protein, a starch, a vegetable, and some fat come together to create a delicious and simple dinner. Pan-fry a chicken breast in a little olive oil, make some rice, steam some broccoli, and dinner is done. Or prepare a big salad with lots of fruit and nuts to make it interesting. Multi-step recipes are great for weekends when you have more time to cook, but weeknight dinners are well suited to simple meals. Avoiding complicated recipes allows you to keep your kitchen equipment basic, as well. My family has a few week nights that are busy and I love serving up a tapas style meal of cut up fruits and vegetables with whatever else we have on hand: olives, cheese, hummus. Not having to turn the stove on or wash a pan is a real time saver and these healthy tapas style meals can be prepared quickly.

Applying a minimalist philosophy to your diet can be done in different ways, but they will all result in a simpler life. Eating less food of better quality that can be prepared simply and quickly will improve your health and free up your time for more of the things you really want to do. So include Meatless Mondays in your meal plan, cut out one snack per day, and enjoy the peace it brings you.

Home Tour: Living with 3 Teenagers in a 2 bedroom Apartment

Sharing our home in a series of posts on the blog the last few weeks. Not included in the tour: our kitchen and bathrooms – they are straight up boring but you can see our super tiny kitchen here. The final installment: but what about the teen years?

The oft heard phrase I hear when people find out we have three children and live in a two bedroom apartment and that we hope to stay in this space is: just wait until they are teenagers! In fact there were some funny and informative comments of that exact nature in a few posts in this series. Carmen told me I may want to move out when the boys hit the teen years because of the smell. Maybe that is the solution? I rent a small apartment in my building during their teens years? Strangely enough there is a family in our building with that exact set up. Parents have one apartment and the teen/early college boys have another.

Don’t worry, we are both scared and daunted by the idea of our three boys – likely to be in the very tall range – living in this small-ish space with us. Scared but also aware that we have some choices.

One choice would be to rent a townhouse or upper portion of a house for three to five of the high school years. I think this is becoming a very acceptable idea in Vancouver’s crazy real estate market. Buy a home that works for most of your life, rent somewhere for the relatively small window where it doesn’t work. This would also give us more options for choosing a high school that has programs our children are interested in and a neighborhood that is walkable and has all the amenities we need and enjoy. I like this idea and I think it could work very well. The downside of course would be the hassle of moving and the increased cost. Plus, renting has some drawbacks in that you could lose your lease or the owner could sell and then you are stuck with the expense and hassle of moving again. We’d also pay tax on the rental income from renting out our home plus continue to pay condo strata fees each month and of course any repairs to our home. A townhouse or part of a house would also rent for more than what our apartment would rent for. This choice would significantly increase our cost of living for the duration.

Another choice, one that I also like very much, is to invest in some space saving furniture and renovations to create more space and privacy for teens and parents. Our space usage is terribly inefficient right now: our kids go to bed early and are small. We haven’t needed to increase our efficiency and make rooms multi-purpose because right now it works. Besides the baby sleeping in a portable crib in the office each night, most of our rooms are single purpose. But I can see that older bigger children will want more privacy and our small second bedroom won’t be a comfortable space for three teen boys.

And as someone who experienced having her own bedroom for the first time my sophomore year of college, I would like to give them their own space for some of their teen years. The great thing is, we can actually do that even in our small space. It will take some work and some money but investing in furniture and some small renovations is cheaper than moving and renting a bigger home for three to five years or selling and buying a bigger home.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for making our two bedroom apartment work for a family of five that includes three teenage boys.

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Master bedroom becomes younger children’s bedroom and parents take the smaller second bedroom. Our master bedroom is large for a condominium and fits a king sized bed. We could move all the kids in there in the next two or three years and then our oldest could have the den/office as his own room later on. Double wall bunk beds would greatly increase the floor space – I’ve linked to a few options below.

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Photo credit Resource Furniture

 

Second bedroom becomes the parent’s room. We move down to a queen sized bed and perhaps even a fold down queen size bed with a desk. When our oldest moves into the office the second bedroom works nights as parents room and days as a home office. 5kids1condo has this set-up with a fold down bed that is a desk during the day and it means his master bedroom can be used 24 hours a day instead of the usual 8-9.

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Photo credit Costco.ca

Our little office/den becomes the oldest child’s room. Technically this room is an enclosed balcony per city building codes. Semantics really but it doesn’t have a closet and has a glass wall and door that faces into our living room. Because of building codes and rules we will likely never be able to pull the glass wall out and enclose it though we could remove the wall and leave it open (maybe the plan once the kids leave the next!). It’s a very small room but it can fit a twin bed and maybe a small dresser if we were able change the door to swing out instead of in. From memories of my teen years I know that getting your own space is worth it even if it’s a very small space. When the oldest moves out the next in line gets it, we move back into the master bedroom and then the two children still at home each have their own room.

The closets in our home are very small but I recently saw a smart idea from fellow Vancouverite Alison who writes at 600sqft.com (lovely blog! go check it out) about a small renovation that increased their closet storage space. A light went on for me – we could do this with our few and small closets too. So to keep up with the increasing size of the kid’s clothes we could knock the headers of the closets out and have more usable space. If we can keep all or most of the clothing in the closets we can have fewer dressers and more floor space. Which will be needed with five people in the 6ft to 6’5″ or taller range sharing 1100 square feet.

Our beloved IKEA Stockholm sofa could be traded in for a sectional. Not a chance it can seat what will be five adults. We’ll get something larger, give up our side table and maybe I will finally have a coffee table once there are no crazy toddlers in the house. The dining room table that now sits in a four person configuration will expand to it’s six person configuration permanently.

We put up a sliding barn door or put a wall with door up to divide our living room from the two bedrooms. This would create a better sound barrier between the living room and more privacy for our main bathroom.

Another way to create more privacy: spend less time at home. I know this sounds a bit strange but hear me out. I’m hoping my teens are fairly independent and that due to our proximity to so many things, including transit, they can manage their own lives and schedules without mom and dad chauffeuring them around. With so much at their door step I expect they will spend some evenings studying at the Vancouver Public Library a few blocks away, playing pick up basketball at the local outdoor courts or at the Community Centre, swimming in our condo pool downstairs or at evening band practice at the high school that’s a 20 minute walk or eight minute bus ride away. Or working their part-time evening and weekends job at a local coffee shop. Yes, this is a small space for two adults and three teenagers but one of the reasons we live down here is that we have a lot of public space and amenities close by. Our living room is limitless if we think of all the options in a few blocks radius to us to study, meet up with friends, read a book or listen to music.

Are you living in your ‘forever’ home or will you need to upsize or downsize as you age or your family grows/shrinks?

Home Tour: Master Bedroom & Office

 

Showing you our minimalist-ish two bedroom apartment for a family of five in this series. You can see all the posts here.

This is the most wasteful room in our home. But I love it. Our king sized bed is a space hog and a real luxury for an apartment dwelling family. We still have the occasional night where a kid or baby is sleeping between us and weekend mornings where all five of us are piled into bed together. Plus my husband is 6’5″ and I’m 6 feet tall. Big people love big beds.

Wasted and inefficient space usage gives us a lot of hope for the future. It means we can create more space without moving. Rooms can become multi-purpose, we can invest in some stowaway furniture, mix up who sleeps where or works where and create more kid friendly play space and, later, more teen friendly spots for privacy.

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King bed, one nightstand (only room for one) and a dresser are all that we have in this room. While it is a big room there aren’t that many spots for placing furniture: the closet, two doors (one to the ensuite) and the floor to ceiling windows that wrap around one side limit our furniture placement options. There is a nook in one corner that could be useful for a desk someday for older kids but we will have to get creative and likely invest in some wall bunk beds when we move all three kids in here.

The laundry bag on a hook over the door was a gift for my husband last Christmas (lost the battle with him on no laundry hampers) Sometimes the kids table and chairs live in the corner nook if our toddler is in a climbing it phase or if one of the other kids wants to draw/build/do in peace. Having free floor space comes in handy for creating impromptu work areas and solutions for infrequent or temporary needs. I’ll share our future planning in another post but I think with a light renovation on the closet in this room we could do away with the dresser and be able to store all of our clothing and household linens in the closet.

 

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Our master bedroom is very simple and I haven’t put much on the walls. I think our three kids could be in here sooner than I have planned and that has held me back from decorating. Plus, when I am in here and not sleeping I am reading. A book and this night view is really all I need to enjoy this space.

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The second most wasteful room in our home is the office. Another good sign for making this home work for us in the years to come. We’ve been living here for almost a year and I still haven’t decided on what or if we should put a book shelf or storage unit in the office.

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This room is south facing and it’s a challenging space to use. It’s very hot in the summer and the light in the afternoon makes it very hard to work on a computer. I’ve turned the desk around a full 360 degrees to find the right spot and nothing works for the full day. In the evening our youngest sleeps in here in a portable crib so if I face the desk to the large window it makes it very awkward to bring the crib in with enough room for the large glass door that opens inward. Eventually this will be our oldest’s bedroom and eventually my work space will be in my bedroom so I haven’t felt compelled to figure out a better solution or invest in furniture or black out shades or screens. If I’m working in the afternoon I just move to my bedroom and use my dresser as a standing desk.

office2

Everyone has a place or room they throw stuff to deal with later – even me the minimalist-ish mom – and for my family this is the office. I have a box with a kite to be repaired, small electronics to sell or recycle and the Hungry Hippo game that we’re trying to keep out of our baby’s sight line (he loves the small red plastic balls for the game). There are three picture frames I haven’t put up since we moved and this foam dinosaur construction kit thing that the oldest got as a gift that we started but haven’t finished (it has dozens of tiny foam pieces that our youngest would love to eat so we have it stowed in here to keep him out of it). The desk drawers quickly accumulate things and I find myself sorting through them every other month to return Lego bits to their proper home and recycle old school notices and receipts. Our office is definitely the family clutter hot spot. I’ve spared you the photos but know that it is there!

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The office also doubles as the baby’s room at night right now. It works quite well as the older two are staying up a bit later now that it’s so light out. Does he look like he minds sleeping in an office in a portable crib with no nursery to call his own?

As I have said before, it’s a positive that we are using two of our rooms inefficiently. It means we have room to grow in this space.

Are you using any rooms in your home inefficiently? Do you have single purpose rooms that only get occasional use like a home office or guest bedroom?

Home Tour: One Bedroom For Three Boys

Sharing our home in this series on the blog. More here and here.

Three boys. One bedroom.

My best tip for making a small space work for three kids isn’t a design hack or even a space creator like having less stuff. My best tip for making our small space work for three kids is this: get outside. We don’t have a yard nor space to have an indoor mini tramp or rec room you could play soccer in. Our home has to meet our big needs – place to sleep, relax and dine – but it can’t meet all of our needs. We can’t own all the toys or all the books. So we let the library and our friends and the tot drop in at the Community Center own and store a lot of toys and books that we use on site or borrow for a few weeks. Grandma has the water guns and the mini soccer goals and big remote control cars at her house. If you don’t have an attic or garage or basement you are forced to just own what you use most of the time and find other ways to enjoy your occasional toys and activities.

kidsroom2

Technically this room houses three but at the moment the youngest sleeps in the office in a portable crib but plays and has his toys and clothing stored in this room. Our plan is for the three boys to share this room for the next two to three years and then do some shuffling to give them more space.

kidsroom5

The IKEA hack toddler bunk beds (originally our neighbor’s 5kids1condo.com) are fantastic space savers. Our older two – age 6 and age 3 – fit nicely in them. I won’t disclose too much about the design (because it’s not mine and I don’t want to be sued!) but this is two IKEA Gulliver beds stacked on each other with four supports keeping them together and a custom ladder. It’s very sturdy and we all love it.

On the other side of the room we have a play corner centered around the ubiquitous IKEA Expedit unit. I try to keep the toy collection contained to just these boxes plus another box in the living room but I will confess there is a Paw Patroller and Air Patroller out of view. The boxes: two are full of wooden trains and train set pieces, the rest is Duplo, Lego, dress up clothing, wooden puzzles and some Hot Wheels cars and tracks. We cull the toys a few times a year via the methods in Simplicity Parenting. Some of the books are displayed on picture rails that just fit in next to the closet and there are more books stacked around the house.

kidbooks

The small but deep closet in the kid’s room holds two IKEA units for clothing. Sometimes I KonMari all the clothing… sometimes the three year old pulls all of it out looking for his pajamas (they were on his bed). Sometimes the baby pulls all the clothing out just because it’s fun. So yes, I don’t KonMari their clothing frequently. I have a rule that if the clothing can’t fit in unfolded then we need to pare it down.

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The rug is very second hand Pottery Barn and was incredibly dirty when I got it. A number of runs with the Dyson later it’s nubby and worn but pretty clean. The little chairs can fit at our kid’s table to increase our hosting options.

A big comfy reading chair that the kids could sit in with me would be nice. But it would eat a lot of floor space and make the room feel crowded. Instead I sit on the carpet or the kids come into our bed or we all sit on the living room couch. When the kids are waking each other up or pestering each other and not falling asleep I think it would be nice for them to have their own rooms. I’m not immune to the “wouldn’t it be nice to have” thoughts but when I go there, and I do go there, I then try to remind myself what the nice to haves come with: eventually feeling squeezed out of our small-ish home.

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What about when they’re teens? It wasn’t until second year university that I first experienced having my own bedroom. Oh how I loved it. The privacy and the ability to decorate and do as I please was such a luxury. I would really like our children to have a year or two of their own bedroom in their teen years. Which is why if we stay in this home we will do a room shuffle every few years so each boy can have a year or two of high school with his own bedroom. Here’s another “it would be nice to have”: It would be nice that they spend enough time sharing a bedroom with a sibling(s) that they learn how to navigate the rough and calm waters of living with people and also, that they really appreciate having their own bedroom when it finally happens.

Did you share a bedroom growing up? When did you first have your own bedroom? I feel like most kids these days don’t have to share but I like the skills learned from negotiating with a sister over what poster goes on the wall and who gets the top drawer.

Home Tour: 1 couch for 5 people

This is what my living and dining room look like when they’ve been picked up and children are not around. I write that caveat in because many days this place looks like we’ve been robbed and the thieves emptied the place looking for an illusive piece of Lego.

When we first moved into this home almost seven years ago we filled the living room and dining room. We had a couch, arm chair, coffee table, huge IKEA expedit entertainment and storage unit, a storage chest, dining table and chairs and a large storage cabinet for wedding china, wine glasses and such. Sure, everything fit into the space but looking back at the photos, and remembering how it felt to live there, the room felt heavy and crammed. When I was struck by the decluttering bug in the fall of 2010 I gave away the storage chest and cleared out a lot of what was stored in the IKEA expedit unit. Six months later we sold everything and moved overseas (it felt amazing to own no furniture!). Moving back four years later I knew that although we had added two more people to the family, we didn’t need all of the furniture we had before.

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This time around we skipped the big storage/entertainment unit and got two smaller pieces from IKEA. The bottom unit holds kids drawing items, games and puzzles on one side and the other side isn’t very full and holds some books and a few random decor pieces that we are trying to keep out of the baby’s reach. The shelving that is above the TV is storage for some electronic items and memorabilia.

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At one point we did have an arm chair but it wasn’t getting a lot of use, was bright red and we had received it basically for free while getting a grouping of second hand items. I gave it away and the space feels the better for it. When we need more living room seating we pull one of the dining room chairs over – the upholstered ones are actually quite comfortable. For now all five of us can sit on the couch together comfortably and the kids often prefer to sit on the floor to read or play or watch a movie anyways. In trying to live a life where my home functions for 90% of my needs, instead of 100%, we don’t have a second couch for guests. We do have visitors and we can fit three adults on the couch, with the dining seating another four seats and I can bring in the chair from the office. We had a birthday party here with ten or so adults and fifteen kids and we made do just fine with the seating.

diningtable1

Our dining table has seen better days but was a good second hand deal and works with our space. Most of the time it sits in this compact square configuration leaving us a lot of floor space. When we have people over we take one or both of the leaves out, add in the office chair, pull out the kids table and party! *The kids table and chairs are actually my husband’s from his childhood. They rotate around our place for kid work/dining surface where needed. Currently they are ‘locked up’ in the master bedroom because the not quite 18 month old likes to stand on the table. If it’s a larger group than we have seating for we do two dinner shifts, kids eat first and go off and play while the adults eat. In a pinch we also throw down our picnic blanket and kids eat picnic style. Who doesn’t love an indoor picnic?

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Again, less furniture makes this room more livable. At another time I would have put a big book case along the wall where the kids table is and a china cabinet across the back wall of this room. Coffee table, add in a big arm chair or even a love seat, and this room has a lot less space to move in. We will have to make some adjustments when the kids are older and bigger – that couch isn’t going to hold all of us! – but I hope they are small. Plus if we are living in the city with teens I am expecting that they make use of the community centre, library and parks independently in the evenings. As Miss Minimalist says, “in pursuing a minimalist lifestyle, we must resist the temptation to recreate the outside world within our abodes.”

Next up: kids’ bedroom.

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