Category Archives: Goals

Retirement Frugality: Bread

My three strategies to save money are —

  1. Pay Less for the Same Product
  2. Find a Cheaper Substitute
  3. Do Without (and the cheat: Use Less)

Bread (bakery outlet, home made, supermarket)

Strategy #1:  I could find another bakery outlet. (The one I knew either moved or went out of business.) Here’s a link to a list of bakery outlets.

Strategy #2: I could buy bread only on sale. We wouldn’t have what we prefer most of the time, so I don’t.

We could make/buy cheaper types of bread: flat breads, corn bread, biscuits, etc.

For years we’ve baked our own Fall – Spring and bought it in Summer. A 10 lb bag of flour is about $10. If you use 1 lb per loaf and figure $1 for the salt, yeast, etc. then a home-baked loaf costs $2, not counting energy. A store-bought loaf close to the size, etc. of our home-made loaf is $4 or more.

Other ways I can think to make our home-made bread still cheaper are:

  • I could use coupons or sale shop for ingredients more often;
  • Make a sour dough starter/grow our own yeast, or
  • Grind our own flour, or
  • Bake more loaves at once.

I’m not sure how practical any of these are!

Strategy #3: I don’t really think this is possible — bread is called the “staff of life” for a reason!

Strategy #3/Cheat:  I could bake ahead and freeze bread to use in summer. I don’t have an easy way to do this.

Retirement Frugality: Budgeting Meat & Vegetables

MEAT

In general, chicken is the cheapest meat available, then pork, then beef, with veal being the most expensive. (When I figured this out from perusing years’ worth of USDA data, I stopped buying veal.)

I found a write-up about turning a 3 lb. pork loin into at least 4 meals for 2 people: a roast, sweet & sour, chow mein, and a pork chop meal.

That’s 8 meals. I researched a price per pound for natural pork loin, so I could figure how many meals I’d have to make to get to my magic .25/portion or more realistic .50 ?

I found a price, $3.99/lb. For a 3 lb loin, If I make 8 meals as in the write up, it’s $1.50 a portion. If I can do 12, it’s $1 a portion. And given what I found with the chicken as well as this research, I think an actual, realistic target price per portion is $1 for meat.

The only ways I can see around this are:

      • Abandon the idea of eating organic/natural meats, or
      • Do that (above) AND buy bargain meats only, or
      • Become vegetarian.

We eat “breakfast” one day a week, and lunches are left overs or catch as catch can. That makes 15 meals a week I need to budget for, and there are two of us, so 30 portions. We eat meat for 2 meals a week, so the cost of the protein for those days should be around $4. (We might, or might not, have sausage or bacon with our “breakfast” meal.)

How do  I use this to figure meats I can afford OR decide which meats I can’t?

The most realistic quantity I can come up with uses 1/4 lb of meat for 2 portions. At $1 per portion, that means:

 Any meat I buy has to cost $8/lb OR less!

The pork price I found fits ($3.99), so do the bulk chicken thighs ($2.49) I’ve been using. Ground beef at the local small green grocer, at $8.99/lb does NOT.

chicken-pig-cow


VEGETABLES

This year, I worked hard to find a way to reduce our vegetable cost, and managed to save about $100 by not buying a December share and full farm share, as we have in the past.

Instead, I bought a 1/2 share and a second share (at a different farm)  which starts earlier than the farm we’ve always used. This gives us fresh produce longer, but requires more work on my part retrieving it, meal planning, etc.

We spent approx. $600 this year for the farm veggies. That covers 8 months. Assuming there are 4 weeks per month, it’s $75/month, 18.75 per week, or .63 per portion (for 15 meals, 2 portions each).

This leaves us $125/month of our stated budget ($200 a month) for everything else: supplies, condiments, etc. And, as long as DH is working, that’s realistic. When he retires? I think I need to find ways to do better.

Meat & veggies aren’t going to be the answer! I don’t see how I can cut much more. As it is, we’re paying bulk prices for months’ worth of food up front, and retrieving it ourselves to avoid delivery fees.


I forgot Stew vegetables for winter! I run out of some, if not all of these every winter: carrot, celery, onion, parsnip & potato. What I have left right now are carrots & onions.

There was a huge quantity of carrots in last December’s share and I bought a 20 lb bag of onions from the farm sometime late fall.

I guess I need to do the same with all the stew veggies this year. Fifty lb bags of “chef” potatoes show up in the fall in some markets, I’ve never bought them as I want organic.  I need to ask the co-op about this or the farm(s)…

In general, we can’t use up wholesale quantities of perishables. I don’t have room to store them and we can’t eat them fast enough. But I hate going out midwinter for a 3 lb bag of onions!

Instead of making up 1/2 made casseroles, etc. like I did in 2019, maybe I need to make up/freeze stew veggies, like the stewed tomatoes and salsa verde I already make?


Assuming we will need to spend 1/2 of what we currently use? That will have to come from supplies and other foods, if possible. That’s another blog!

 

 

One Pound of Chicken Thighs…

I usually buy organic chicken thighs, bulk pack, in 5 lb packages. I split this into packages of 3 each, about 1 lb.

I just used the last 1 lb package. I thought I’d use this to figure out how well I did with  the meat cost per meal. I did pretty well, but not what I need to!

Day 1: Lemon chicken 3 thighs, all cooked (part of the oven meal). We ate 2. I put aside the drippings and 3rd thigh.

Day 2: I made a burrito bowl (this one). Except I never use instant rice, I just cook rice separately. I also can’t eat roma tomatoes, so I pay for heirloom non-red tomatoes and use about 1/2-1 tomato’s worth. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s better than having an upset stomach for hours!

Day 3: Picked the meat off the last thigh. Made gravy from the drippings. We had left over rice (the burrito bowl)  with a little of the chicken/gravy on it and sauteed greens on the side.

Day 4: Chicken and rice soup. Took the remaining gravy with chicken, added water, the last of the tomato, and chicken bullion to taste. Added the remaining rice. Made up a condiment plate with cooked greens and minced jalapeno.

Into the freezer: 1 serving of the soup. I added the last 2-3 tablespoons of cooked greens and the minced jalapeno.

The chicken costs $2.49/lb. How much did I spend per meal for the meat?*

I put it in 6 meals. If we eat the last serving in the freezer? The price is .36/meal.  If we don’t eat it, but toss it? The price per meal goes up to about .42!

How could I have done better? I could have saved the bones, skins and scraps to add flavor to another soup or stew or just make broth. If you add just one more meal that way, the cost per meal for the meat goes down to .31!

As a list:

  • 3 meals if we’d eaten all of it as one-piece of meat per serving: .83/meal. (We didn’t do this.)
  • 6 meals, cost per meal =.42, (We’ve did this.)
  • If we eat the last meal in the freezer, the cost per meal is reduced to .36 (We’ve done this.)
  • If we eat the freezer meal and I’d used the scraps? price per meal = .31

Obviously, I need to start a container for soup scraps! Otherwise, I’m never going to get even close to my desired .25 cost/meat per meal.


*These numbers are rounded. $2.49 just doesn’t divide evenly!


To get to my target price, I’d have to make approx. 11 portions from my 1 lb of meat. I don’t think that’s very likely, do you? And, since I know the $2.49/lb price is a real bargain, I think this means I need a reality check! As it is, we ate, on average about 2.29 oz of meat in each of the 7 meals.

So, unless we start raising our own chickens or something similar, I think that the best I can realistically expect is the price for the 6 meals above, or .42 per portion.

My idea was that the meat would probably be the single most expensive piece of a meal, budget that hard and the rest of it’s not so bad.


Eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein around. If we eat them, we sometimes have 3 or sometimes 4 omlette, for a single meal, which feeds both of us. I buy eggs from a neighbor for $3/dozen these days. A four-egg omlette costs .50/person. A three-egg omlette .38/person.


Organic ground beef from the local market costs $8.99/lb. I’d have to make > 20 meals to get that down to .40 or less per person. Again, not realistic. Even if I allow myself $1/lb, it’s 9 meals from a single pound of ground beef — really? One meatball, right?


My menu plan only has meat in it two days a week. The plan is:

      • Monday Double Veg meal
      • Tuesday Leftovers
      • Wednesday Double Veg meal
      • Thursday Eggs
      • Friday Double Meat meal
      • Saturday Sandwiches
      • Sunday Double Meat meal

When I came up with this, I was trying for a few things: less meat, less cost, less cholesterol, more veggies, less work on the days I’m really busy (Weds, Sat, Sun).

My week hasn’t followed the pattern this week because we were eating the 2nd meat/leftovers, until Tuesday. Ate veggies Weds. and will tonight, Thursday, too.

The double veggies I made are some of the end of last year’s farm crops (root veggies), some I bought at the market when we ran out (cilantro, potatoes & parsnips), and rice (when I made the burrito bowl last week, I made a double batch of plain rice and froze the extra).

I have no idea how to figure, with any kind of accuracy, the six month’s worth of veggies we got from the farm and how many meals it went into! Some of it is in 1/2 made dishes in the freezer, some of it is in the pantry, but most of it was eaten fresh.

 

 

The 400 Degree Oven Meal Experiment

I wrote about this idea here.

What I made: oven-fried lemon chicken and jacketed potatoes (400)  for dinner with a vanilla/apple dump cake (375) for dessert. I didn’t  make the Mexican peppers. I decided to only do the 3 recipes: oven-fried lemon chicken, jacketed potatoes, and apple dump cake.

What worked: Chicken and potatoes were done cooking at the same time and were as good as expected. Both recipes I’ve made before. The apple cake recipe was rather made up as I went. I had no presugared fruit like last time.  But it too was good.

What didn’t work or didn’t work as expected: This required a prep marathon, something I usually avoid.  I was very busy for a while!

  1. Because they cook the longest and take the least prep, I got the potatoes cleaned, cut and in the oven first. Set the timer for 1 hour.
  2. The chicken needs fats added to its cooking pan.
  3. Seasoned flour needs to be mixed up.
  4. The chicken is dredged and put in the fridge.
  5. I made up the lemon sauce for the chicken.
  6. When the potatoes had been in the oven 45 minutes or so, I rotated them.
  7. Then I added the pan with the fat for the chicken (the chicken crisps in the hot fat) on a second rack. This requires complete concentration so the fat gets hot but doesn’t catch fire. (It only takes a minute or so.)
  8. Put the chicken in pan with hot fat, re-set timer for 30 minutes.
  9. Wash apples. Butter cake pan. Chunk apples.
  10. Start water and sugar cooking for sauce. Make “pudding”. * Let cool slightly. Add butter and vanilla. Pour over apples to coat evenly.
  11. Put sauced apples in buttered cake pan.
  12. When timer goes, pull out chicken, turn it over, pour on lemon sauce. Reset timer for 15 minutes.
  13. Sprinkle cake mix on top of sauced apples. Push down to dampen most of the cake mix. Dot with butter.
  14. When timer goes off again, pull out rack– check potatoes and make sure chicken is 165 degrees or more. Turn off oven. Plate dinner. Turn oven back on to 375.
  15. Oven was hot just before I was ready to sit, of course. Put apple cake in oven. Set timer again for 30 minutes. (Cake actually took about 40 minutes to bake. )

Everything was yummy!

*The original dessert sauce recipe had it cooked in a double boiler. For a few years, I made cornstarch pudding 1 or 2 times a week. I don’t need to cook such things in a double boiler any more! That said? If you’ve never made cornstarch pudding or do so rarely, mix the cornstarch with some of the water in a small bowl beforehand to a smooth slurry, (If it becomes “concrete” keep stirring!) then add the slurry slowly to the rest of the hot water in a double boiler!


Takeaway:

I was surprised how long it took to get the oven back to 375. Next time I won’t turn it off, just reset the temperature!

I will do the static prep way in advance —

  • Wash the apples and potatoes, but not cut them.
  • Make up the seasoned flour and the lemon sauce.
  • Butter the cake pan.
  • Measure the fats into the chicken pan.
  • Pre-measure ingredients for the dessert.

I will do this again, even though it takes more planning than my usual, “toss everything together”.

.

Oven Meals — 400 Degree then 350 Degree — Menu Plan (and reality)

Not sure why I’d do this? See here for an explanation.

400:

  • Jacketed potatoes, for up to 2 hours.
  • Oven fried chicken, 400 for up to 1 hour.
  • Mexican Green peppers, 400 for 45 minutes.

350 for 30 minutes:

  • Ham slice, 25 minutes
  • Candied sweet potatoes, 30 minutes
  • spinach tart or tomato flan, 30 minutes

The 400 meal: The chicken usually works for 2 meals. The pepper recipe is for 5 peppers, although you could no doubt do 2 or 4 or 6 for that matter….

The 350 meal: The spinach tart uses a pie shell, the tomato flan does not. Also, spinach is available (here) first thing in the spring and in fall, the tomatoes are only available in summer, so that could easily affect why I’d choose one or the other.

Note:

I’d love to try doing this as an experiment!

However, I do NOT have the peppers, corn to stuff them with, the ham, cottage cheese (for the spinach tart), spinach or tomatoes. Given the current state of things, due to Corona, I have no idea when I will be able to just buy those again! When I can? I’ll be happy to do this as an experiment. If I do?

I’ll post a link to the write up here.


I’m going to do the 400 degree meal tonight. However, I didn’t find a ham slice yesterday at the market. The only sliced ham was sliced for sandwiches, not something I’d want to put in a 350 oven for 30 minutes!

I’ll have to modify the recipes to suit what I have, but I think I can manage! This is Friday, so my meal is supposed to be a double meat dish, that feeds us tonight and Sunday night too. I have 3 thighs in a freezer container, thawing. We’ll eat 2 tonight.

We’ll have dirty rice for lunch, it’s left over from earlier this week.

And I might make a burrito bowl from the last thigh on Sunday.


I tried this! I wrote about what worked and didn’t here.

Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies, part 2

Given what I know about supplies, how do I determine how much space is needed?


These factors affect supply storage: use rate, back stock needs, available space.


Once I know the use rate, I can determine reasonable back stock. For example, we use about 3/4 of a roll of paper towels a week, mostly to deal with pan grease. Having a 2 week supply seems reasonable. That means I need a back stock of 1 roll. But my usual source for these sells them in 4 roll (or bigger) packages.  I need to decide if having 3 rolls in storage makes sense? If it does, then the back stock amount/space for 1 roll won’t work, obviously.

It seems I need TWO types of back stock storage: immediate and a supply closet or shelf. Immediate storage near where the product is used, an extra bar of soap under the sink, for example. But if I buy a 6 bar bundle, most of those should go somewhere else, like a supply closet.

I don’t have a supply closet right now… soon! One planned summer improvement is for DH to build a broom closet. When he does, the wardrobe that’s our current broom closet will be empty. 

There’s space available elsewhere, I’ll use that until the wardrobe is empty.

My minimum for the shelf-stable supplies we use the most often? One complete refresh. I have that. It isn’t what I’d like because it isn’t the most frugal option, but given that I have nowhere to store a large back stock? It makes sense.


“When you keep an account of your stores, and the dates when they are bought, you can know exactly how fast they are used…”

Miss Beecher’s Domestic Receipt-Book, 3rd ed.,1856

Goldilocks Dilemma: Durable Goods (Spreadsheet)

The questions of Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? for Durable Goods is easier than that for supplies. (Not sure why I said that? See here.)

From an hour’s worth of work, I concluded that storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was an issue.

  • So, imposing a SPACE BUDGET should always be my first step when considering an item to keep, cull or purchase. The next consideration is whether or not what I’m considering is a durable item or a supply item?

(A SPACE BUDGET is a given amount of space allocated for a certain item.)

Here’s the spreadsheet I created for Durable Goods;

Storage Limits?

Used all at once?

Perishable?

Lifecycle/ use rate?

Costly?

Fixable?

Used inside, outside, car?

Special storage?

Dry?

Semi- liquid?

Liquid?

Artwork: wall

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Artwork: sculpture 

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Artwork:  other

yes

yes

not likely

unknown

can be

maybe

depends on piece

likely not

?

?

?

Books

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Clothing

yes, closets for those hung

yes

no

1 year or more

no

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

yes, dressers for those folded

yes

no

1 year or more

no

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Computers

yes

yes

no

3 years or mroe

can be

maybe

inside most often

no

y

n

n

Dishes

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Furniture

yes, piece must fit in the room it’s for

yes

no

5 years or more

can be

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Linens

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

yes

inside

no

y

n

n

Pots & Pans

yes

yes

no

3 years or more

can be

maybe

inside

no

y

n

n

Phones

yes

yes

no

3 years?

can be

maybe

inside most often

case

y

n

n

Obviously, this isn’t complete, but you get the idea!