Category Archives: frugality

Inspirations and Data

There are various places I’ve been getting inspiration, my batteries “recharged,” and just getting useful information.

One of these is the website choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com, which is filled with common sense, realistic advice about living with less stuff, spending less money, and doing so more deliberately.

Another is the woman Lefie, on YouTube. (Link) Most YouTube folks who talk about simplicity or minimalism I find to be rather “holier than thou” an attitude I frankly want to watch about as much as I want someone to pull off my toenails!

Lefie is the only one I’ve found who’s human enough, informative enough, and entertaining enough to keep me interested. Not a lot of what she says is new to me, but it makes me think about whatever again and I don’t resent it. I don’t feel lectured at, and I don’t feel like it’s a preen job where she gets to show off how cool and accomplished she is.

I find most  lifestyle YouTube videos so bizarrely slick that I think it’s like bad TV, rather than other people talking to me about what works for them.  If I want to watch a production, I’ll get a movie, a TV show, etc. with professionals. Most YouTubers are not those things, and they do things like make up and manicures and very spiffed up houses, and then lecture.  (I call these “preen jobs.”)

They don’t have the presentational panache professionals do, their information isn’t fresh enough for me to be interested to watch the entire piece, and in the process, they’re for me, a bad infomercial. I started to watch one yesterday where the woman was doing a house tour. She moved the camera/phone around so much she made me dizzy and I stopped watching.

I’m not their intended audience, I know, but still. Did no one tell her that she can’t just pan around a room at normal walking speed for several minutes without making viewers kind of loopy?

There are a swathe of “frugal substitute” and “what we don’t use any more” YouTube videos, most of which I also find pretty silly or irritating. You can find 2 flavors of these: frugality/save money and minimalist.

I’m glad you use a bullnose clip instead of a chip clip. Terrific! But why use one at all? We use rubberbands, but chip-type snacks are rare here, because, doh, we’ll eat them and we don’t need the calories or salt or to spend the outrageous amount per pound for the snacks to begin with. So when such things make it into the house, they’re usually gone in 1 day, no need for a chip clip or bullnose clip or anything!

dollar sign from zazzle.com

My point there is that it’s MORE frugal and minimalist not to buy them to start with!

The other reason those videos irritate me is that I’ve been doing frugal paring down and substitutions for decades. I have tried 1000s of the ideas already. I keep hoping someone will find a new way to save money, but so far, I haven’t found one.

One way to save money: spend less.

Three strategies to do this: 1) Cheaper substitute. 2) Do without. 3) Use less.

What I’m really looking for these days and haven’t found yet, is the minimalist equivalent to the save money statement above.

That statement took a long time to crystalize from decades of reading, watching, trying, listening, etc.


I’m not a minimalist. I’m a recovering hoarder.

I’m not a frugalista. I’m a person trying to save money for a heating system, get ready for retirement, or just not waste money, because why would you want to waste a resource?

I’m not a YouTube fanatic. I only have subscribed to one channel, Lefie’s. It may be the only one I ever subscribe to!

I am not a 20-40 year old young professional or mom, looking for help, either.


I can come up with the blanket statement for minimalism, but not the detail. The detail requires the understanding that actual usage brings. I’m not a minimalist, right? But here’s the first piece:

One way to be minimalist, that is have less stuff is to get rid of stuff.

Revision: To be minimalist and have less stuff, get rid of stuff.

Revision 2: To become minimalist, remove excess.

It’s the same, obvious statement which can be overlooked amidst all the noise on the subject!


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Trying to Be Organized

It’s remarkably difficult!

One thing I noticed early this spring was that much of the frozen food I’d pitched were the random combinations of veggies: bok choy and onions, or, or …? Because I composted about 20 of these “soup and stew” vegetable mixes, I decided that this year I need recipes for whatever I froze instead.

So I searched through my cookbooks and came up with some. Then I made a spread sheet of the recipe name/source/page as a column head and the ingredients as the rows. The quantity req’d for a recipe goes into the appropriate cel on the spread sheet. It’s two pages long at this point.

Why did I do it this way? Because all the ingredients aren’t available from the farm at the same time, so some will be frozen first and then I’ll add the others.

But then, how did I know how many I had? Were they complete? And, and . . . . and so I made a grid for that.

So, this morning (it’s farm day) I went through the “shopping list” I’d made for the farm, from the email about what’s available this week and a survey of the food in the kitchen and marked what was needed for the food to be put away.

So, now I have:

  1. Two shopping lists: one for the farm, the other for the supermarket
  2. A check list/grid of the completed/in process frozen foods
  3. A spreadsheet with recipe names, where I found them, and the farm ingredients
  4. Three cookbooks, with the recipe pages flagged.

I intend to make a large grid/checklist page that I can just tape to the fridge, combining #2, #3 with recipe cards,  (replacing #4) in a library pocket.

This is waaay too involved!


When I first conceived of this, I thought I’d do 2 recipes, maybe 3: summer veggie combo, winter veggie combo and something else. The 3 became 13, and the chaos began. When the list of recipes grew exponentially, my need for tracking and organization did the same.

Every week, I thought, “Okay, I’ll do this piece of organization/tracking and that will fix it.” and then discovered I’d forgotten some vital piece, again. (The last is the check list of how many containers are done. Are they complete? Not?)

For the past three weeks, I’ve added a new form of tracking and organization to this every week. Let’s hope that combining them on one page will get it to “use it at a glance”  that I want!


It’s done. I have room for the library pocket, but haven’t copied the recipes out yet. I added a 14th recipe.

So two more major steps: copying the recipes onto cards and proofing the data.

 

More Food Planning/Use

Today is the day I usually go to the farm for our week’s food. If I’d been home yesterday, I would put aside whatever remaining foodstuffs from last week I didn’t think we’d use.

I’ve started that effort today instead, but it IS being done.

I’ve also planned what I’ll get at the farm, that makes food use a bit less random!

Finally, I go right by our favorite markets on the way home, so I’ll do the weekly shopping. There’s a package of chicken thawing in the fridge for tomorrow and Sunday.

Tonight’s dinner is probably a cheese omelette and salad, or that’s the plan. This is subject to DH’s input, how much and types of cheese we have, etc. We had HM hummus, freshly baked bread, and green salad. It was too hot to cook and I’d been gone all day, no interest in cooking at all!

I culled 2 jars from the pantry as their contents will be replaced, starting today.

This is working! We’ll see if I can keep it up. DH and I have had a few discussions about the “menu plan,” and he thinks it’s a good idea and agrees with my long-term goals: getting us used to smaller, cheaper meals like we’ll have when he’s retired, spending less on restaurants/prefab food, less meat, more veggies, better use of the veggies we’ve paid for (from the farm), and less food waste.

Photo by petra cigale on Unsplash

And for me, the kicker is that this isn’t so rigid that I resent it and it takes away the creativity I normally use when cooking. The I don’t know what to make with what I’ve got randomness is the only piece of cooking I really like: taking a bunch of random ingredients and using up what needs it in a meal.

I know people who sit down and plan a year’s worth of menus at once. I couldn’t do that, any more than I could do something similar to Once a Month Cooking or Mega Cooking. I tend to put pieces aside, not meals. (For example, cooked rice and stems from greens for soup.)

Simplify

It just occurred to me that I need to do this with well everything, including the food I make!

Given the “menu plan” I came up with:

  • M Double Veg.
  • Tu Soup/Stew using bits & pieces LO
  • W Second Veg.
  • Th Egg
  • F Double Meat
  • Sa Sandwich
  • Su Second Meat

I’ve been looking at recipes.

Also given that we’re trying to save $, the farm is starting the beginning of June AND I’ve decided I need to set aside some HM instant meals, I’ve been looking at what I might make:

Casseroles and Loaves meat and veg both.

Seasoned Ground Beef Make up a batch of the meat I use for meat loaves and make a batch of meat balls at the same time. Can be used with pasta, or in Albondigas Soup, or smashed with mayo as a sandwich filling, or in a pita with veggies.

The soup/stew base I found last week which I intend to use this year. Making it before I freeze a bunch of it is a really good idea as we’ve never had it!

Salad mixes – like 3 bean salad, except I hate 3 bean salad. But these kinds of salads can be mixed ahead. I’ll have to think/research this idea.

Quiche Base or Mix? Given that I’m supposed to make 1 dinner a week with eggs, maybe this is an idea? Never looked at quiche recipes with that idea.

Those will make the double meals easier. What else can I do?

White Sauce Balls I did this years ago and it was a success. You mix flour, butter, a little milk, salt and if you’re a purist white pepper. (I only use white pepper when I already have it. I don’t care if my white sauce has black speckles or not! YMMV!) You measure this paste out into 1T balls and freeze. Need to make gravy? Grab one or three.

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Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Other ideas:

  • “Tray bakes” or “one pan” meals for the double  meals.
  • Self-frosting cakes (also one pan cakes).
  • Preplanning enough to use all the bits. When I make stuffed tomatoes mid summer as an entree, I use the innards the next day. That’s something I’ve always done. I wonder what else I can set up that way?

Research! Think! Plan! Do!

 

More Frugality

Because the thing I want to save the $ for is a heating/energy unit, I went looking at our electric company’s website. So they kept referencing apparently an old, Obama-era site, which of course is no longer active, but there’s no other referral.

I am, can you tell, really impressed with our local electric company. Wonder why? See here for more info.

In their defense, I will say that the 3rd time they sent us the “You’re using more energy than your more energy efficient neighbors” letter, they did at least make some reference to what they were comparing us to, a typical home in our zip code. Of course, they never actually said what that was, so it was still meaningless, but less so than previously.

DH is set on getting at least one minisplit  this year and maybe another next year. Okay. The chimney cap we’re replacing this year is the last piece of the chimney/wood stove replacement project. The only piece other than that on the chimney which hasn’t been replaced is the veneer over the pipe, a box around it. I’d love to replace the box, but it’s mostly cosmetic, not structural.

If I win the lottery, we’re going to get the minisplits, solar panels AND a new fake riverrock box around the chimney pipe with a mantel to match. Just sayin’!

Barring that? We’re getting a new chimney cap and at least one minisplit.

My husband said to me, empathically emphatically this morning, that he didn’t want to haul wood or load it into the stove another year.

Okay!

I just have to find a way to make this happen! Squeeze those dollars!


Plant and landscaping frugality: A 1 gallon potted perennial is $35 at Lowes, about $32 with a discount. If you buy them at garden club sales, they’re around $10-$20. Cheaper yet? Layer a 2nd one from one you’ve got, or plant the seeds, or divide it? — Free!

Mulch frugality: Garden centers at big box stores typically sell opened bags of mulch, etc. for 1/2 price. Cheaper yet? Use the pine needles, pine bark, leaves, what have you that you have in your yard already as mulch. Free!

The Celery Thing: I’ve run into this a couple of times, people talking about planting celery plants in their yard. I did this last fall, and the plants are gone this spring, again.

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Photo by Sole D’Alessandro on Unsplash

I went looking for more information. The best I found is a woman who’s been using the same 7 celery plants for years. She lifts them in the fall and makes them houseplants during the winter (and uses them). You can find her write up about this here. (The site is full of interesting ideas too: choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com .)


Gawd I love spring.

And I hate it; I’m always overwhelmed with things to do, ideas to explore, etc. Too much!


Despite still being sick, I managed to spread one of the remaining bags of mulch this morning on the bulb bed. I also transplanted two daffs AND moved some rock, sand, etc. I was wiped out after about an hour, which is typical these days.


On Saturday: the plant sales were a success and not as cheap as I’d hoped. The library/town sale where I’d bought a 1 gallon pot for $10 last year, they were $15. (I got 2.)

The other plant sale where I stopped I got 2 6″ perennials for $5 each.

Sunday? Our next door neighbor took out 90% of a forsythia bush (what the 1 gallon pots held)  and gave me a branch which should get us the last two plants I think I need, for free. I wish I’d known the neighbor was going to whack up his 15 year old plant 1 day earlier, could have saved us $30!

Extreme Food Planning: Part 2

Other things I can do:
  • Look at the bulk price per lb for turkey parts at the co-op. I don’t like the taste of turkey as well as chicken, but turkey pound for pound, with bone in, is usually a better deal — there are fewer bones.
  • Get the coupon file up to date, haven’t done this since April.
  • Make food from recipes I have using foods I almost always have, first.
  • Figure out how many potatoes and onions I’m likely to need over the winter. (Garlic is < 1 full braid, so are chilis. Carrots approx. 6 dozen.) Onions and potatoes were all used or tossed a month or more ago. After I have a number, I can explore purchasing enough to make it through winter, my goal.
  • Develop a basic stew/soup veg recipe and conversion recipes, so I’m not putting food aside to toss the following spring. Found something to try, a veggie soup recipe that has 2 distinct parts, the first pretty generic!
  • Make more “stewed” tomatoes this year so I don’t run out in Feb. again.
  • Try the celery thing.
  • Make a sourdough starter and USE it.
  • See if you can find unpasturized wine so you can make your own vinegar?

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Photo by LoboStudio Hamburg on Unsplash

Note:

  • 17 heads of garlic still on braid, one in basket.
  • Cayenne ristra jarred. Old pepper flakes discarded. 5/16/19

Extreme Food Planning: Part 1

Most Americans spend < 10% of their income on food. However, unlike mortgage interest, credit card minimum payments, utility costs, etc. it is one expense we all control.

Some of this is certainly dictated by location and available income. You can’t afford to buy $50 worth of bulk soap if you need to feed 3 people for $60 a week and you have a hard time doing that.

That said? I’m fortunate enough to be in the pool of people that can afford to use food planning to reduce our expenditures, at least for now.

So, along that line, I decided to do a category food plan. I’m not doing menu planning. When I did detailed menu planning, I hated cooking, it became a chore I had to get through, like scrubbing a toilet, just another chore. My idea here is to make a loose framework, not a menu plan.

There are two or three things going into this:
  1. I have to empty the freezer by the end of this month to be ready for the summer flood of veggies.
  2. I want to save every nickel I can.
  3. I want to use the above two items as a goad to both finally organize my cooking information and eliminate excess stuff.

What to do?

Convertible meals. One meal that becomes 2 or 3. Right now I have 2 lbs of cooked chicken and consommé in the fridge. That is easily 2 meals. I also have some cooked rice. Okay. Chicken and rice soup is one meal.

The others? The meat pulled off the bone can be made into chicken salad for lunch or dinner or lemon chicken. I have lemons and we’ve both been fighting colds for more than a month. I could add the chicken to the end of the salsa and we could have tacos, which would use up some of the tortillas, or….

Getting 3 meals from 2 lbs of chicken isn’t hard. I think I have 1 more lb of chicken, divided, in the freezer.

I also have a small pork roast, and some bacon. (I wanted pork while I still trusted it.)

I guess that’s another thing I can add to my learn-to-do-this list: learn to make a sausage substitute from chicken and grains…. it’s my observation that self-regulation never works. There are historical reasons why food regulations are so cumbersome. Go back and look at an old cookbook which talks about testing for chalk in flour, etc. before you buy it. I have those books, I have no desire to go back to arsenic in eye drops, chalk in flour, etc.

In my opinion? People are going to die and/or get very sick and then things will start the other way again. That’s a few years in the future yet… in the meantime, I can stop buying so much processed food and do more diy. I also sent a question to my local organic food organization asking about organic pork processing and how it differs from conventional?

Categories.
  • Egg. One egg meal per week. Quiche or omelette or just breakfast. Eggs, unless they get too warm are hard to adulterate and usually cheap protein.
  • Soup/Salad/Veg. Salad or soup or just a veggie plate night, maybe with hummus or other dip. Use up those bits & pieces!
  • Double Meals. One or more double meal nights or converted food nights. Any large piece of meat, large veg, casserole, etc.
  • Sandwich. Self-explanatory.
M -Veg enough for 2 meals
Tu -Soup or salad, using the uneaten and no plan for it bits and pieces
W – LO veg
Th – Egg
F – Meat meal enough for 2 meals
Sa – Sandwich
Su – LO meat

That should work. It’s broad enough that I probably won’t get bored. It also doesn’t give us meat 7 days a week, has a built-in left over day, and uses eggs to drastically lower food costs, as eggs are, after dried beans, almost the cheapest high protein source available. I’m not cooking complicated meals on the weekends, when DH and I tend to do home improvements.