Category Archives: Making Home

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!

 

 

Modified Peach Cobbler Dump Cake

I made a peach cobbler today or  rather a dump cake, modified. I don’t have cake mix in the house, or didn’t, so I had to make one. I used this one, modified, I used 1/2 as much sugar as specified (1C).

I used this recipe for the dump cake/cobbler. But I modified that too. I took about 1/2 the butter and mixed it with 1 teaspoon vanilla paste and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, to compensate for the “missing” sugar in the mix.

I only used 1/2 the cake mix because I had 1 pint of frozen/sugared peaches, not two 15 oz cans called for in the dump cake recipe. It was baked in a square pan, for the same amount of time and temp as in the dump cake recipe. It’s good!

I knew if I told DH the cake mix had 2.5C flour and 2C of sugar he’d ask me why I didn’t use about 1/2 the sugar?

So, here’s my modifications in a list:

Cake Mix Recipe: 1C sugar in cake mix recipe, instead of 2 cups.

Dump Cake/Cobbler Recipe: I also halved the recipe for the dump cake, (used 1/2 the mix I’d made).

I added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and the last of my vanilla paste (about 1 teaspoon) with about 3 tablespoons of the butter. I did NOT increase the amount of butter. Soft butter is easier to do this with than when it’s rock hard!

I cooked it in a square pan, not a rectangular one.

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

New! Major Reorganization

With the memoir being scheduled for publication, the panic attacks at least partly under control, and the new ALPHABETICS idea in play? The original reason(s) I started this blog 10+ years ago have changed!

  • With more than 1,000 blogs here, the calendar was too long, so it’s been removed.
  • Archive and history page data (above) have been combined.
  • A frugality page has been added.
  • Another new page will be added, more on that later.
  • The what I did/why I quit page has been renamed Clean It Up!
  • Many previous blogs will be removed or recategorized.

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!

The Goldilocks Dilemma: Supplies

For me, there are two types of things stored in my home: durable goods & supplies.

  • Durable goods – anything made to be used and reused repeatedly: clothing, furniture, rugs, buildings, automobiles, linens, dishes, pots & pans, etc.
  • Supplies – anything made to be used once and used up or changed in some way where it can’t be reused: paint, food, firewood, cleaning products, etc.

Figuring out how much is enough or too much with durable goods is less complicated than trying to determine the same for supplies.

For one thing, most supplies require specialized storage. And some, like frozen foods, requires VERY specialized storage. Others don’t require anything so specific: cat litter for one. But supplies do need storage which prevents them from becoming unusable.


Considerations: Storage Needed

The question is, is the supply .  .  .

highly flammable? fuels, firewood, firestarters, matches, kindling, waxes, polishes, etc.

heat sensitive? frozen foods, foods needing refrigeration, seeds, wax candles, etc.

light sensitive? photography supplies, some fabrics, etc.

Or:

Should it be in a waterproof/water resistant environment? This covers many of the remaining supplies: soaps, fabrics, toilet paper, thread, etc.


Considerations: Supply Form

Is it dry, semi-dry, or a liquid? 

  • Dry supplies are usually the most stable: dried spices, cat litter, toilet paper, powdered soaps, etc.
  • Semi-dry supplies usually things which require a bit more care than dry supplies. Items like paste shoe polish, some waxes, bar soaps, vegetable shortening, demiglace, etc.
  • Liquid supplies require a waterproof container. Many are cold sensitive, if they freeze their bottle will burst. These include: shampoos, liquid laundry soaps, olive oil and other cooking oils, vinegars, etc.
  • Food supplies obviously require storage which will help keep them fresh, if possible. This is true whether the food is dry, semi-dry or a liquid.

Considerations: Designated Use

Supplies are normally made to be used for a specific purpose. Food is made to eat, thread to use on fabric, compost on the garden, etc. The easiest way to divide this again is to separate it by locale: inside, outside, or for a car?


Supplies are complicated: there are many factors to consider when determining where and how much to store!

 

 

 

Just Right? Not Enough? Too Much? a/k/a The Goldilocks Dilemma

If you’ve followed along here for any period of time, you’d notice that I keep trying to find “rules.” That is, I keep trying to find set answers to recurring problems.

  • Can I cook in such a way that the kitchen cleans itself while I’m doing it? (See self-cleaning tab above.)
  • The three ways to save $ is another.

Here’s my latest:

I’m trying to figure out exactly what to keep, toss, or buy, and have been for a long time. I decided to try and “formalize” the decision-making process because I keep revisiting the issue.

I posed the problem in a forum where I participate. The answers I got and my reactions to them got me to create a spreadsheet.

From an hour’s worth of work, I came to these conclusions: storage limits are a major determinate for me — every item I considered it was a potential 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.)


I discovered that I need to treat supplies differently than durable goods. Supplies tend to be things that are not used all at once. And they are things which are meant to be consumed entirely. So, for a bag of cat litter, space allocation needs to be big enough to hold the full bag, even when it isn’t.


So, this can be approached in two ways, from either the amount desired or the space needed.

  • How much of a given supply do I want to have on hand at the most? — How much space would it need?
  • Or, How much space do I have to allocate for this supply? — How much of the supply can be stored in the available space?

Some supplies require specialized storage, which of course makes it even more complicated.