Disclosure: All reviews are my true and honest opinions. Posts may contain affiliate links where I earn a small commission from your purchase, but I will always let you know which links those are. :)

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Mexican Style Plant Based Bowl Recipe

1/2 Cup Brown Rice (measured dry) 
1 Cup Water 1 tsp Better than Bouillon Vegetable Base 
1/2 tsp garlic powder 

1 Tbsp lime juice added after cooking (makes 2-3 servings)  

Cooked Beans or 
 Quinoa Taco "Meat": 
1/3 Cup Quinoa (measured dry) 
2/3 Cup water 
1 Tbsp taco seasoning 

 2-4 Tbsp salsa added after cooking (makes 2 servings) 

Corn, onion, and bell pepper cooked in 1 Tbsp canola oil 
Tomatoes and avocado raw, chopped. 

Add all ingredients together into bowl.


Vegan Mediterranean Grain Bowl

2-4 Tbsp classic hummus
1/2 cup cooked farro 
1/2 cup cooked quinoa 
6 halved grape tomatoes 
1 Tbsp chopped red onion 
3 Tbsp chopped kalamata olives 
2 pepperoncini peppers 
1/2-1 cup kale 
1/2 cup cubed baguette or other bread

Cook the farro and quinoa in separate pots, they need different cook times. 
Combine once cooked. 
Add in tomatoes, onion, olives, peppers, and kale and cook on low until kale wilts. 
Add grain mixture to bowl. 
Add cubed bread. 
Add hummus. 
Mix and enjoy. 

For leftovers, keep the bread and hummus separate from the grain/veg mixture.

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Delicious Spiced Lentils (vegan dahl)

I love this Lentil dahl. I always add extras to this dish, but here is the basic recipe I use. You can build onto with any ingredients you like.

1 Tbsp olive oil 
1/4 cup red onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced
1/2 to 1 Tbsp garam masala spice mix
4 oz can of green chilies diced
1 cup coconut milk (or tomato sauce)
1 cup water
1/2 tsp better than bouillon vegetable base (or use veg broth instead of water)
1/2 cup lentils (measured dry) (rinsed, soaked in water 15-20 min beforehand)

1. Cook chopped onion in olive oil over medium heat until starts to brown.
2. Add garlic and garam masala. Cook about 30 seconds to 1 min.
3. Add chilies and cook 1 min.
4. Add coconut milk or tomato sauce. I use both depending on what I have on hand and it always turns out delicious either way.
5. Add water with vegetable broth paste or premade vegetable broth.
6. Add lentils after they've been rinsed and soaked for about 15-20 minutes.
7. Bring to a simmer and cover for 25 min or until lentils are tender.

This is a great basic dahl, but you can always add any extras you like. For example: cauliflower, kale (I would add only in the last 2-3 min), sweet potato, bell peppers, cubed tofu. It will all be delicious.

I love to serve mine with naan bread. It's not my recipe, but it's delicious and you can find it here:



Wednesday, December 16, 2020

My Vegan Chili

My Vegan Chili Recipe

This chili recipe is super basic. Plus it's the only meal my husband will actually eat vegan meat in. 😄 

3.5 oz Hungry Planet Match meat beef
1/4 cup black beans (measured dry) 
1/4 cup Pinto beans (measured dry) 
1/2 pkg Chili seasoning (about 2.5 Tbsp)
1 tsp sugar
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
10-12 oz water (I just refill the tomato sauce and chilies cans)

1. Cook the beans. I cook mine in the crock pot on low for about 5 hrs. 
2. When the beans are ready, pan fry the vegan beef, then add all ingredients together in a crock pot and set to low for an hour or two.  
3. Serve with avocado, nutritional yeast, and Tofutti sour cream, or even vegan Red Lobster biscuits

Makes 4 servings. The perfect amount if you don't want a ton of leftovers, if you ask me.   

Freezes great. 
I like to have leftovers on French fries with some vegan cheese for chili fries. 

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy. 


Sunday, December 6, 2020

Vegan Corn Dogs Recipe

My Vegan Corn Dogs Recipe

6 Vegan hot dogs (we use Lightlife)
3-4 Tbsp all purpose flour 

Corn Dog Breading 
1/3 cup flour (we use half all purpose, half whole wheat) 
1/3 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup plant milk (we usually use soy) 
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp onion powder
1/2 Tbsp garlic powder
Dash of salt, pepper, and cayenne 

1. Prepare the batter by mixing all batter ingredients together. Let sit for 5-10 min so the cornmeal really absorbs the plant milk. 
2. Cut hot dogs into thirds and dust in all purpose flour.
3. Dunk hot dog pieces into the batter. Tap off a little excess so it's not dripping. 
4. Fry in oil on medium heat.
5. Serve with ketchup and mustard. Enjoy. 

Thanks for reading. 

Friday, October 9, 2020

4 Weeks Pregnant Update + Thoughts

Week ending Aug 24, 2020
Due Date: May 4

I took my first pregnancy test this cycle on Aug 18 at only (what I thought was) 7 DPO and was equally surprised and not surprised when they were positive (I took two cheap strip tests first, then went back later in the day and took a standard test).


Made my first appointment and it isn't until the day before 9 weeks! How am I supposed to wait so long to check on my baby! We think we want to wait until the ultrasound before we announce to anyone, but I don't know how I'm going to make it that long! 

Bloated. I already feel like I look pregnant and I don't know how I'm going to keep this a secret if I show early. 

Maternity Clothes:
Not gonna lie, I was already browsing before I got pregnant. This is going to be my first time as a stay at home mom while pregnant, so I won't be wearing all the maternity jeans I used to, I'm going to want leggings and sweatpants. I do honestly think I have enough clothes even with the wardrobe change, but I'm honestly more concerned about nursing attire once baby comes. I want some nursing tank tops that I actually like, I feel like most of everything I used with the boys functioned fine, but just weren't exactly what I wanted. So I've already been on the lookout for good nursing tops. 

So far, no big break down or freak out. Which is strange, I'm pretty sure I had big moments right before I took tests with Cal and Eren.

I'm vegan. Before I found out I was pregnant, I had been craving meat substitutes a bit and that has continued. Like I just had beefless tips, gravy, baked potato and carrots last night and it was amazing! 

Sleep & Dreams:
Ok, let's talk about weird stuff haha. Before I knew I was pregnant, I dreamt we had twins, a boy and a girl, and the boy had dark hair and was just precious. I want a dark haired baby so bad. But that's not the weird part. The weird part is anytime I ask Calvin what kind of baby we're having, he says two sisters. 🤷‍♀️ Twins?
Also just been remembering my dreams better overall, just having strange dreams, and usually many each night. 

Definitely already taking naps. 

Physical Symptoms:
Lightheaded at first, then sore boobs and abs, light cramping. 
First round ligament pain already.
A couple headaches. Tylenol didn't help, but Excedrin isn't okay for pregnancy, so pretty much just gotta deal with it. 

Favorite Moments of the Week:
When I took the first pregnancy test, it was just a little cheap strip test, and I was watching it turn for a minute. It left a very white line in the spot where the second line that tells you you're pregnant should be, and I thought that's weird, I've never seen it do that before. So I dipped another test just in case something went wrong with the first. Then I covered them both up and went to sit on my bed. I didn't think I wanted to do a live pregnancy test video, but during those few minutes waiting, I figured, why not, let's give it a go. :)

Baby Purchases:
None. But I did already order myself a couple nursing sleep bras.

More About Baby:
Before we started trying, my husband and I already had a boy and girl name picked out, so no worries on that end. Also, we have been saying for a long time that we want to wait until delivery to learn the sex this time. But my first two pregnancies were high risk, so I'll probably be getting pretty frequent ultrasounds this time around too, and I'm just not so sure I'll be able to keep from looking every time. :)

What I Miss:
I wish we could just tell everyone. I wish miscarriage risk wasn't so high and stupid this early. 

Random Thoughts:
I keep feeling like I'm not really pregnant, like it hasn't sunk in yet. We haven't told anyone else and we really want to keep it a secret longer this time (I know we always say that, and then tell at like 5 weeks haha). I just don't feel like I'm pregnant.. I don't spend all day just thinking about the baby in my belly.

Alaina & Baby #3

Two Week Wait Symptoms

I've been tracking my cycle's symptoms for a few months now, so that once it's time to start trying to get pregnant, I would have a better idea of what would be a normal monthly cycle symptom vs what might actually be new and different and a possible pregnancy symptom. 

I'm always surprised how well you can get to know your body when you sit down to track the weird little symptoms you have during your cycle. It's pretty cool. 

CD 10 - Right side pain similar to ovulation. 
CD 11
CD 12 - I was absolutely convinced I was ovulating this day (even though it was 3 days earlier than usual). I wasn't taking opk's or temping so I can't know for sure. I had a terrible lower back ache, it felt exactly like I was going to start my period. Around ovulation, I usually do have some cramping on one side, but I've never experienced real full-on cramps or a lower backache like this. It was so weird. I put the boys to bed early so I could lay down with a heating pad in bed. I was also sooo thirsty in the middle of the night. 
CD 13
CD 14
CD 15 - The day I was supposed to ovulate according to the last few months' very regular cycles. I did have some aching on my right side like ovulation. (My last 4 cycles had been spot on 28 days, and the cycles before that still averaged 28 days overall, so according to the calendar, this should have been ovulation day)
CD 16 - On this day, I had a headache nearly as soon as I woke up. The rest of the day my head just felt heavy, like I had a headache, but I didn't have the pain. (I know that sounds weird, I just can't think of another way to explain it). And I remembered I did have one wave of lightheadedness the day before too. But I said to myself, you're crazy, there's no way, it is too early for this, there can't even be implantation yet unless you ovulated early. And I remembered I used to get light headed around ovulation when I was trying to get pregnant with Eren, but I had never had that before those 3 cycles I tried with Eren, and I haven't been experiencing that since I've gotten my period back after Eren either. So it was all around just weird for this lightheadedness symptom (whether just a regular cycle symptom, or a pregnancy symptom) to appear all of a sudden this particular month. 
CD 17 - gassy, bloated
CD 18 - high anxiety, left side backache in am
CD 19 - one super strange wave of nausea afternoon
CD 20 - I was laying on the couch with the overhead fan on, I was wearing a tank top with no bra, and my nipples kept feeling super sensitive to the cold air of the fan, even through my shirt. Very strange. 
CD 21 - crampy in am. Took a shower in evening and that's when I became convinced I was pregnant. The water from the showerhead on my nipples was too much. Boobs were slightly achy on the undersides, like they missed the support of the day's bra. Remembered the previous day I thought perhaps my boobs were a little fuller. I had told myself when we started trying that I wasn't going to test until I started having breast changes. That's one thing that I don't typically experience in my normal cycles, so I thought it would be a pretty good indicator. Also been having tiny waves of super faint lightheadedness all week. 
CD 22 - tested. Talked to my husband about the boobs the night before and he said, just test tomorrow. So I did and it was positive! The faintest possible positive you ever saw. I took two cheap strip tests, but then I took a regular test later in the day too and it was also a faint, but definitely there positive. Sore lower abs and boobs. 
CD 23 sore lower abs (feels like I did a workout), sore boobs, low back ache, light cramps
CD 24 tested again and got a pretty regular strength positive, so that made me happy to see the line darkening. Emotional day (but still so utter breakdown like I had around this time with both boys) 
CD 25 - been waking up a little early all week and unable to fall back asleep, realized the lightheadedness hasn't been around for a couple of days. Low sex drive all week which is pretty unusual for myself lately. Took a nap in the afternoon. 
CD 26 - [the day I originally told myself I would wait to test until] left side round ligament pain after standing up, less sore boobs, nausea, bloated all week, acid reflux a couple of times this week. 

It seems like the symptoms are coming on really early this time around.
I hope you found this helpful.

Thanks for reading.
Alaina and Baby #3

Trying for Baby #3

We've decided it's time to start trying for baby #3.
As I write this, it's our first month trying.
We decided to start trying a little earlier than we previously planned after sitting down to make a pros and cons list and we realized let's just do it. 

Originally we weren't going to start trying until after Thanksgiving (Nov), but it's August and we're definitely working on making a baby now. :) 

I can't wait to be making pregnancy updates here on the blog and on my YouTube channel again! Growing a tiny person is just so exciting, but sooo nerve wracking. With the stupid complications of my first two pregnancies (pPROM, polyhydramnios), I am definitely worried about things not going great once again. It's just incredibly frustrating having complications that they don't give you a cause for and no advice for how to prevent it happening again.

I wasn't nervous about trying for my first two. With Calvin, my first, we had no idea there would be complications down the line. And after he was born, the doc said I had a 1 in 4 chance of having pPROM again. To me, that meant next time around would probably be fine, so I wasn't worried about Eren (our second) until the third trimester when the polyhydramnios really started to kick it up a notch. So now that we've had two pregnancies with polyhydramnios (the first one of which resulted in pPROM and a 5 week stay in the hospital worrying about premature labor every single day), I can only assume the same stupid thing (poly) is going to happen in our next pregnancy too. And I can only hope magically it doesn't. *shrug*

Since I know what might be in store for me this time around, I do worry more. 

Now I know I was so incredibly lucky for both of my boys to be born perfectly healthy and after 37 weeks. But the possibility of not being so lucky next time really just stresses me out. We had the best possible outcome for pPROM at 32 weeks with Cal. And with Eren, nothing bad happened. Yes, my belly was enormous. Yes, I wasn't allowed to walk further than it took to get from the parking lot at work into the office. Yes, I had to take medications and shots to helps prevent my contractions and preterm labor. Yes, every day of the last trimester, I wondered if something bad would happen. But in the end, I was induced after 37 weeks. He didn't try to come early and everything turned out okay. But it was still nerve wracking! 

One thing that I'm trying to keep in mind is that the pregnancies were both going pretty much totally fine until the third trimester. I'm trying to remind myself of this and know that the majority of the pregnancy is going to be okay. I can worry about the complications once we encounter them in the last trimester. I have to tell myself that the medications they had me on with Eren (because of my complications with Calvin) did what they were supposed to do, so they can do it again this time. 

Then I have this irrational fear of miscarriage. The thought process that goes through my head is something along the lines of, if miscarriages are so common, and I've already had two pregnancies without miscarriages, then statistically, am I not due for a miscarriage this time? I don't know how that all works, but I'm just being honest, that's another fear of mine. 

I thought I'd just get out those little thoughts running through my head lately. I know it's not healthy to stress over these things, but coming on here to vent helps me get it all out and hopefully set it aside for awhile. 

Thanks for reading and joining me for this next journey. 


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Potty Training Update - 7 weeks into naked butt method


After 7 weeks of really hitting potty training hard, I am ready to call Eren officially potty trained!
He's been so great throughout this process and I still can't believe how quickly it's all flown by.

If you're interested in how we started the potty training period with Eren, read this (Naked Method 1 week update HERE). 

I have several video updates too. 

Day 1 of Nakey Butt Potty Training: https://youtu.be/MxxNANKSQqc

This is just our experience potty training our second son, and let me just say, I feel like so much about this journey has been different than with our first son. It's crazy how different two kiddos can be.

I hope this was helpful.

Alaina & Family 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Potty Training Naked Method Week 1 Update

We have been working on introducing potty training for a couple of months now. We would have Eren sit on the potty at diaper changes, especially first thing in the morning (if he was in a good mood first thing), randomly throughout the day, and before bath time, for example.  But he pretty much never peed on the potty in all that time! I could count on one hand how many times he successfully peed on the potty in those couple of months. He told me when he pooped in his diaper maybe twice.
So after not making much progress at all, I decided it was time to take potty training seriously and hit it hard. I wanted to see if perhaps Eren just wasn't ready or if we weren't being consistent enough with him. 

Eren turned two on March 17. We started doing nakey butt potty learning on June 25.

So we decided to start implementing a lot of naked butt time this past week and boy, has it made a difference! 

Eren gets excited about the potty and actually cares about the whole concept now. Before, I didn't think he had a clue what was going on. 

So what have we been doing? 
Let Eren run around the house in only a t-shirt. 
Keep the potty in the middle of the living room in the same spot all the time. Leave the lid up a lot too, so it's always ready. 
Make Eren wear training pants or underwear while we play outside, go somewhere, or have guests over. 
Put a nighttime diaper on him for bedtime. (He's not napping anymore, but if he were, I'd probably put a diaper on him for naps too)
Randomly throughout the day, I'll just say, "hey, babe, remember when you need to go potty, just go sit down on the potty, okay?" I don't force him to sit on it, I don't put on a timer and make him try at any intervals. I have just been waiting for him to figure it out. The first day, I gave him snacks for sitting and trying, but after that, he's only been getting snacks when he actually goes.
I've been giving him candy when he goes on the potty. His older brother Calvin is also getting candy when Eren goes potty because I don't want to fight about who gets more candy haha. So this has actually helped Calvin get involved. He gets so ecstatic when Eren goes potty, tells him he's doing a great job, and he helps us carry the potty to the toilet to flush away. I guess that's another thing, we make it a big event to carry the pee container to the toilet, he gets to open the toilet seat and flush it away and shut the toilet lid.

I started on a Thursday at home by myself with the boys and vlogged the whole first day. (That video will be up soon.) We didn't have much success. Eren peed on the floor a couple times before he even admitted that he was peeing, he did wear training pants a few times throughout the day and peed in them every time. He didn't pee in the potty at all. 

Friday the boys spent the afternoon at one grandma's and overnight at another, so I don't think we even bothered with any potty learning time. 

Saturday we forgot about nakey butt time until like halfway through the day and he made a little progress in the afternoon. 

Sunday he actually made a lot of progress. He was really good about sitting every once in awhile. Randomly he would just say "potty!" And run to the potty, sit for 10 sec, then leave without peeing. But he'd come back a couple minutes later and try again and he'd pee! So he was finally starting to recognize the feeling his body made when it was time to go! 

Monday he would pee anytime I put him in underwear (he did a Walmart pickup in the am and played outside once in the am and once in the pm, and he peed in his underwear every time! ha). I think he only peed once when he wasn't wearing underwear, and he did get it in the potty. For his poo, he started pooping on the floor, then realized he needed to get to the potty and finished pooping on the potty. He wasn't telling me when he'd pee in his underwear. Even if I asked him, he wouldn't admit it. So it felt like a bit of a set-back. 

Tuesday he pooped fully on the potty! He didn't start pooping somewhere else, he realized he needed to poop, sat on the potty the whole time until he was finished, then told me he went potty! It was a pretty big deal and I was so excited! He peed in underwear once while we were playing outside. And he peed on the floor once, but headed to the potty to finish once he noticed he was peeing. So he had a really good day. I started seeing that each day had so much progress!

Wednesday he had two accidents, both pees sitting on the couch. He pooped in the potty all on his own again. And overall he had a really awesome day. He did pee in training pants when we played outside, which seems to be his thing. We also started implementing a sticker chart reward instead of snacks. I decided he'll continue to still get snacks for poops though. 

So week one went really well! Of course there's a lot still to learn. Here are some goals we'll be thinking about in our next week of potty training:
Help Eren remember to tell me he needs to pee while he's wearing underwear too.
Pulling underwear up and down.

We'll probably keep doing the nakey butt thing next week, but we'll work on talking about pottying while we're playing outside and he has underwear on too.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Vegan Shakshuka Recipe

How I made vegan shakshuka to meal prep.
Makes about 3 servings. 

1 yellow potato diced
1 block firm tofu crumbled
1 ea Tofurky Italian "sausage" diced
1/4 of a red onion diced or sliced
1-2 Tbsp shakshuka seasoning (HERE)
2-4 Tbsp tomato sauce

(could add diced tomatoes if you have them on hand too)

Cook diced potato in air fryer 10 min at 350F.
Fry onion for a couple of minutes on medium heat.
Add "sausage," tofu, cooked potato.
Add seasoning. (could add more turmeric to make the tofu "egg" look more yellow)
Continue stirring until everything is hot, just a couple minutes.
Add tomato sauce to help everything stick together, I don't like mine to be runny though. You can add as much or little as you like to get the consistency you want.

I like to serve in a tortilla or with a piece of toast for breakfast. It would probably be awesome with some naan bread too. HERE's a vegan recipe for that.

Thanks for reading.

Vegan Thai Spicy Noodle

Here's how I've been making some Thai spicy noodles at home.

Inspired by this recipe HERE.

1/2 Tbsp red pepper flakes
1/3 cup canola oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp chili paste
6 Tbsp soy sauce
6 Tbsp agave syrup
*My sauce is slightly different from the linked recipe. I switch the two oils because I'm not a super fan of sesame oil. And I use agave syrup instead of honey because I'm vegan.

Heat canola and sesame oil with the red pepper flakes on the stove for a minute or two. Then strain out the red pepper flakes so you have like a pepper infused oil leftover. Once strained, add the oil back to the pan and add the remaining ingredients. I turn off the burner after I add the oil back in. Set the sauce aside in a bowl or something so you can use the pan for the rest of the recipe.

Thai Kitchen rice noodles (14 oz box, I use about half)
2/3 of a green bell pepper sliced
1/2 of a red onion sliced
1 block super firm tofu,cubed + coated in 1-2 Tbsp corn starch
+ sauce (above)
Start your noodles. I use about half the box. I just use Thai Kitchen brand because that's what is available to me, but if you can find fresh wide, rice noodles, that would be awesome!

Fry up some bell pepper and onions for a couple minutes. I like mine to still have some crunch.
Add cubed tofu once the peppers and onions are starting to char a little bit. I use super firm tofu and coat it in a couple Tbsp of corn starch before to help it fry up a little crispier.

Add noodles once cooked and drained.
Add sauce. Make sure you stir it up right before pouring because it does separate. You might not use it all. I use about 2/3 of it. Then I put the remainder in the fridge for a day I just want to make a single serving or two lighter servings.

This makes 3 servings for me. When I'm ready to eat the leftovers, I put it in a pan on the stove with a splash of water and cover it for maybe 3 min, stirring occasionally because the noodles can stick to the pan when you're re-heating it.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

How We Paid Off Our House in Less Than 5 Years

If you're looking for the #1 best tip ever for paying off your mortgage quickly, this is how we did it:

Make your mortgage the #1 priority. 

We made our mortgage payment our number one. Every month deciding what we can pay on the mortgage was our biggest budget decision. It was NEVER just another payment.
When we sat down to create a budget, the mortgage payment was everything leftover after bills, food, etc.
Every single dollar over what we needed to survive, we put toward the mortgage.


We bought our house in May of 2015 and got married one month later. We had zero debt before we moved in together and we both lived at home with our parents. 

We didn't have a big wedding. It definitely cost us less than $500, but I can't remember exactly what it came out to. We got married at the courthouse, I ordered my wedding dress on Ebay for like $30 after finding the dress I liked at the mall and trying it on. We held the reception in my parents' beautiful, big backyard. My parents gifted us the food, we had a buffet and a table full of my mom's homemade pies! My mom helped me with decorations, it was a rustic theme with like mason jars and burlap, etc. My husband borrowed the chairs and tables from his work. We got a couple kegs, that was actually the biggest expense haha. And we wouldn't have changed a thing, it was perfect. My only regret is that we didn't film it! 

The house we bought was a foreclosure, and we got a great deal on it at $103k, and we put $1,000 as our downpayment. We got a 15 year mortgage, and our monthly payment was about $1,000. We also live in the rural midwest, so things are cheap here. Just 10 miles east and the house would have cost us an extra $50k, but lucky for us my husband's parents already lived in this town and my parents owned property here too where they planned to move in the coming years anyway. So living in this town wasn't a big sacrifice for us, even though my husband works 50 miles away in the city. 

My dad gave us this tip: buy a house you can afford on one income, that way if either of us were to lose our job, we'd still be able to afford it. That's how we were able to more than double our monthly payments and pay it off so quickly. 

We did some work on the house before moving in too. We got new flooring in some places, painted everything, graded and seeded the yard, and other little things here and there. We got our appliances on Craigslist. And since we got married soon after we moved in together, we waited on a lot of the small kitchen appliances and dishes, etc. because we knew we'd get a lot of those as wedding gifts. We literally owned two plates and two bowls from the dollar store for that first month of our marriage. Justin actually got me a pots and pans set for Christmas the year before we knew we'd be moving out, our parents and grandparents got us glasses and silverware, etc that Christmas before so we had been slowly getting ready to move out for awhile. We had also been accumulating random furniture during our years still living with our parents too. 

We made some bigger purchases, but nothing too crazy. We did need a lawnmower when we first moved out, so we got one with 0% interest and had it paid for in three months. We bought an entertainment center for the living room in that first year, and a new couch in 2018 right before Eren was born. We replaced our Craigslist washer and dryer when the Craigslist dryer went out, but got a big discount on them because they were returns. 

So we had been preparing to move out for awhile. 

These are all the things we did to pay off our house in under 5 years:
  • Budget - we recorded everything - we stuck to a general budget every month for essentials. We went through strict phases, and lenient phases, but I definitely still find value in simply recording what we're spending money on. It keeps my husband and myself accountable to one another, and it helps us at least be able to see if we are in the ball park. Since we use credit cards, it helps us see what the following month is going to look like in our bank account. We stuck to a monthly total budget. It's not like we were only allowed X amount in particular categories, we just didn't go over our monthly allowance overall. If it was the last weekend of the month and we wanted to go out for dinner, we didn't do it if we were getting close on the monthly budget total. More info below. 
  • No cable - with cheap streaming services like Netflix, paying for cable just doesn't make sense for our family. We have an antenna for the basic TV channels, plus a couple streaming services, and that's all for TV.
  • No gym membership - we own weights, a yoga mat, and have shoes for walking.
  • Packing lunches - that's a no-brainer for us. Yeah, it's nice to eat out, but it's not worth it to us. My husband keeps a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and jelly at work. And we both take leftovers occasionally. 
  • Limited monthly subscription boxes - when we both lived at home, we had several subscriptions. Over time, we realized those were mostly junk, so we got rid or them. 
  • No other debt - no student loans, no credit card debt. I was fortunate enough for my parents to pay for my education and my husband bought his car before we got married. 
  • Speaking of credit card debt - Credit cards are good for rewards points and they are more convenient than carrying cash - that's why we use them. I actually save up all of my credit card points to use in January after Christmas time, I usually have about $100 to use on the next credit card statement to help ease the extra cost of Christmas presents. When I got my very first credit card at 16, my dad made it very clear that credit cards are only for convenience. You simply do not put something on your card that you can't pay for right now. Credit cards are short term loans. And by short term, I mean one month until your statement comes. 
  • No car payments - Yes, my car is old (2002), but it still works and I don't drive very far. My husband bought his car new before we got married, borrowed the money from my dad, and paid it off in a few months with interest. We don't think it's necessary to have a new car every couple years like so many average, everyday Americans. A new (to us) car for me is the next big purchase we have planned though. 
  • Meal planning and limited grocery trips, plus sticking to the shopping list. When you go to the grocery store with a list in hand, you're just less likely to buy a bunch of junk that's bad for your body and your budget. 
  • Cook from scratch - I like to think we have a very nice balance of home-cooked stuff and not. We eat out maybe every other week. We eat totally made from scratch dinners, or frozen pizza, and everything in between. 
  • Home improvement budget always came from our tax refunds. We have finished our basement, poured a new patio, built a shed, done some flooring, and landscaped at our home, but we always waited to use our tax refunds to pay for those home improvements. My husband is also really handy and we were fortunate enough to have a lot of help from relatives to do our home improvement projects too. Remember to help out your friends and family whenever they need you and they'll be more likely to help you out one day too.
  • My husband's Christmas bonus = Christmas present fund 
  • Large amounts of extra money go to the mortgage: any leftover tax refund money or other bonuses from work go straight to the house. 
  • No vacations - this hasn't exactly been intentional, we just didn't want to take trips with tiny babies these last few years. 
  • We did make one stock investment that helped us. We invested a little over $13k, which grew to $28k in a couple of years.
  • We had two kids. That might not sound like a budget friendly thing to do, but I personally attribute a lot of our progress to having to grow up and worry about more than just ourselves. I stopped spending so much money on myself, I didn't buy a new outfit every week, or all the latest makeup palettes. I realized life was now bigger than myself. Plus, we just had less time for fun shopping or going out. Ha! We also were very fortunate to have a TON of hand-me-downs for the kids. 
  • We never had an emergency fund. Our extra payments were our "savings." For example, if we needed a new water heater, we would put it on a credit card, then pay less on the next month's mortgage payment, and pay off the water heater on the card. We had this extra money already built into our mortgage payments. And if we needed something even bigger, the way we saw it, we could borrow it from either of our parents. It never came to that and of course, that's not feasible for everyone, but that was our philosophy. Sometimes we may have had a few hundred dollars saved, but an emergency fund was not constant in our household.
The Nitty Gritty:
Our income has varied a lot.
My husband does work on salary, but when I was working, I ranged from full time (4 days/wk, 9 hr days) to super part time (3-4 days per month).
Our income together (when I worked full time May 2015-Nov 2018): $3750-4500/month
Our income together (when I worked part time Nov 2018-Oct 2019): $3100-3375/month

$2500 mortgage 66%
$400 groceries 11%
$250 gas 7%
$460 utilities and subscriptions (everything from car insurance and water, to internet and Netflix) 12%
$140 other (gifts, entertainment) 4%
Total spending before mortgage: $1250
Percentages based on $3750/month average.

So I knew we needed $1250 just to survive the month (without accounting for the mortgage). So at the beginning of the month when the mortgage was due, we'd just account for that $1250, and everything else went straight to the mortgage. 
Our average mortgage payment was around $2,000-$2,500 every month. 

And all of this is the reason why I'm now able to stay home with my kids. We made these sacrifices so I could be a stay at home mom without having financial worries. 

This was our goal: I would work while we had two kiddos, then I'd be able to stay home with the two next babies (we've always wanted four kids). And we even got to accomplish that early because we won't be having baby #3 for another year or more. 

I'm not here to tell you this is what you need to do to pay off your mortgage quickly, I'm just telling you these are the steps we took. This is just what we implemented to make it our priority. Every family is unique. I do hope this was helpful in some way.