Category Archives: price comparions

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!

 

 

Frugal Eating? Sat. & Sun. 2/29-3/1/20

Saturday we went to the natural food market. I bought a pound of their natural ground beef for $8.99/lb. I used 1/4 lb in a pot of chili, along with part of a pint of dry kidney beans I’d soaked and cooked. Also, 1/2 an onion, a pint container of HM tomato sauce, the last of the bell pepper I’d bought last week, cayenne, cilantro, cumin, broth, and chili powder. We had it with cornbread and cheese.

We’ll have cornbread and chili/cheese omlettes for dinner tonight. That will probably use up the end of the chili, the end of a block of cheddar, and the cornbread — or I hope so! If not, I’ll crumble the cornbread and freeze it to use on some future veggie. The chili if there’s a full serving left, will also get frozen, or I’ll have it for lunch tomorrow.

We have various older odds and ends to deal with too. The biggest is the other beans which need to be cooked (Cooked Sunday night.) and used. If I don’t have a whole serving of chili left? (I do.) I’ll probably buzz it and add it to the cooked beans — and we’ll have that, somehow.

Still to deal with? The rest of the left overs AND the other beans and meat. The beans I have plans for (see above), but the meat I do NOT.

Hmm.

btw, the cost of the meat in the chili is approx. $2.25. So far we’ve had 2 meals with it, or $1.12 each.  If we finish up the prepped chili tonight (We didn’t.) the cost will go down to .56 a meal. I’ll have to come up with 2 more portions if I’m going to get close to the .25 a meal for protein I talked about before! That will be difficult, I think. The only reason I didn’t “notice” how little meat was in the chili was that I used beef demiglace (what I use instead of bullion cubes) to flavor the broth. And, no I have no idea how much the chili I made actually cost!

The beans came from a bulk bin, somewhere. They had their bulk label on the jar, but no date or source or price. The tomato sauce I froze last summer. It had tomatoes, onion and bell pepper in it from the farm. I buy demiglace on sale or with a coupon. I have no idea when I bought the bottle I’m using. The onion came from extras I bought from the farm last fall. I don’t remember the price, I could figure it out, but haven’t. The spices were items I already had: the farm has cilantro and I dry some every year, cumin I bought a large bottle some time ago, exactly when or what I paid I don’t know, the chili powder came from the market, don’t know when/price, the peppers were the last 3 of a bag of mini peppers I bought last week. They were about $4.99 for 9 baby colored bell peppers, expensive but yummy, that makes them .54 each or $1.62 worth in the chili. Each portion already eaten is .81

.81+1.12 = 1.93

peppers + meat

If I assume that there’s at least $1 more worth of food in each meal, that makes it $2.93 each. Not outrageously expensive, but sure not all that cheap!

1.93+1.00= 2.93 each

peppers/meat + everything else (per person)

Well, I said I had a lot of work to do, right? I do! I thought this would be much better than it is, because I used 1/2 the meat I normally would. Obviously, I need to do more.


So, we didn’t use up the chili and there’s 1 portion or more remaining. The beans got cooked but not used otherwise. The obvious thing to do is to combine those two for a new batch of chili and put it in the freezer for future use! (Exactly what I did!)

This will successfully drive the price down to roughly $1.50 a meal per person. (half of the $2.93 above). I would like, as a target, to actually use about  .50 a meal, per person as my long-range goal.

And of course? If the (now frozen) food doesn’t get used, that is it gets wasted? Then the price per meal goes back up to the $2.93 per portion, as above! Wasting food has real costs!

Using the New Heating System

The first partial month, our usage and amount due to the electric company was the same as it had been the year prior, or all but. That was a partial month, so we were anxiously awaiting the Jan. bill.

The bill has about doubled for Jan., however, that said? It is about $100 a month less than we were paying for electricity + propane, when we were running the propane furnace. With this, at some point in the future, we CAN put up solar panels to power it and obviously reduce our consumption from the grid.

However, one swallow doesn’t make a summer and one month’s data isn’t really an accurate accounting!

Not included in here: we got our new, more efficient freezer last spring and removed the older, leaky, inefficient one. Also, last winter we were regularly running electric area heaters and we aren’t now.

Is it cheaper than heating only with wood? No. Is it easier? Heck yeah! This is an adaptation my aging body really likes. Hauling wood was hard!

 

How I Look at Things, Now

These days, when I pick up something here, there’s a series of questions which go through my mind:

  1. Am I using it?
  2. Am I likely to use it in the future?
  3. Is it heavy/awkward to use?
  4. Does it take a lot of maintenance?
  5. Can I get a lighter, easier to use or maintain version for the future?

Last night, I found a hanging, round, wire herb rack online. What I have used ’til now is a 2’+ pegged coat rack, which works fine. The problem with it is: I have to stand on a stepladder to access the hooks, 2x a year: to put the herbs up to dry and to remove them.

I’m trying to eliminate chores which require me to climb a stepladder, right? A rack I could hang lower, like our fruit basket, which is also hung, could be ideal. The one I found said in the not-quite fine print that it didn’t come with a hanging chain, which meant I’d have to find or make something.

Hm. Did a google search and discovered both Target & Williams Sonoma have  similar racks, which come with a hanging chain for $10 less. Great!

I like the rack I’ve used in the past, it may make its way into the out-of-season closets when we get that far, but right now it will stay put. If I remove it, I have to store it somewhere and remember where that is. Much easier, less work/less clutter to leave alone until we know where it’s going to be used or are sure we want to sell it.

The first flea market this year is in April. The cherry coffee table is slated to go, not sure what else, except some books and housewares. We should remove more furniture, but it depends on the weather, our health and money of course!

 

Stair Rails, Minisplits, & Life Work

I told DH yesterday to add to the list I want to replace the stair rail at some point. It’s shiny brass. The house is going towards flat black or brushed zinc hardware. Flat black on incidental stuff and brushed zinc on things like faucets. (Not shiny brass!)

So I did a bit o’ research and so did he, it will cost $100+ these days to replace the railing.  We explored some DIY ideas, and they’d all cost about the same, so why bother?

It’s a detail and not on the urgent list. If we find a  used flat black or brushed chrome set of hardware, we now know where to buy the railing, prefinished or raw lumber. Info. is almost always nice to have.

I had found a fireplace set I didn’t hate for < $100 and sent him a link. He pointed out it has 2 tools more than we actually need and why buy them? The place where I found this I think has some tools a la carte. I’ll have to go look. The tongs from the current set wound up in the flea market pile because of this discussion too.

The minisplits got more discussion, as did the house design ideas we’ve explored. We talked about taking the home plan we now have to a big box store and talking about floor plans, changing the kitchen around, etc. with one of the free kitchen designers. Don’t know if they’ll actually talk to us without a monetary commitment, but you don’t know if you don’t ask.

DH came up with a piece of hobby equipment for the flea market, prompted me to go find 4 bowls and a length of fabric to add to a new flea market box.

I found in the shed a few things I thought were long gone, but no, they were not sold long ago and far away… they’ll either be put in the booth or the new flea market box, after they’re cleaned. I have a silk pantsuit which needs to be ironed before it gets added too. The china and silk will fill up the end of the box — and another cubic foot o’ stuff goes outta here!

That doesn’t seem like much, does it? But we’ve both been sick, for most of 6 weeks with 2 different colds. And the second one is a bitch and a half to kick, let me tell you!

3 rules of work

DH dismantled one of the 2 snowblowers last week. The motor is being kept for a project he has in mind. The rest of the bits and pieces went to the dump. The last of it today. Also, we’ve started hauling the accumulated leaves and bark piles to the dump too.

He resigned from the board he was on and I asked him what we could do to forward his avocation using his now free time? What he did shocked me!

He bought organization materials for the accumulated work, so we can label and catalog it. His heirs will be pleased and I’m relieved. I had this nightmare vision about going through the work and only having my best memory and no knowledge of the technical side of what he did, when and where. Hopefully, at some point, there will be (even self-published) a complete catalog.

We’re adulting here. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening. All I have to do now is find some weird convoluted way to turn it into some $. That’s all?

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.

sole-d-alessandro-516633-unsplash.jpg

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!

More Food Musings

Because of the frugal food analysis, I also got down the seed box.

I got discouraged with our veggie garden a couple of years ago, I planted 4 tomato plants (at a cost of $8 each for mid-size, organic, yellow tomato plants) and something ate two of the plants down to the ground. We got 4  fully ripe tomatoes from the other 2 plants and about 4 smaller green ones before the season ended. Tomatoes for $4 each just didn’t seem worth the effort, right?

So last year I just let the garden go. We had a wonderful crop of weeds.

I remembered what I wanted from my garden tonight, even with the farm food, and that is grow things I can’t really get enough variety or quantity from the farm: greens, beans and not red tomatoes.

So I started looking at seeds at my favorite supplier and got down the seed box. Which, because I haven’t planted a garden in two years of any size was chock-a-block full of seeds, some as far back as 2010! I put 52 seed packets in the trash can with seeds in them and 2 empty packets, which I’d kept for some reason.

garden bed

(Image isn’t mine but from images.google.com .)

No seeds in the box are from last year, most are from 2016. This means I’ll spend weeks testing seeds and more will get trashed. But that’s good because it will make me do another cull BEFORE I order seed! (I thought I’d culled the box last year when I moved it. Apparently not, I just put the lid on the box and put it away untouched.)

So, today I took 2 bags of books to the dump’s swap shop and tossed 52 seed packets.

We have been working hard on figuring out what’s next for the house: what we want and how to do it. One thing we decided we wanted is prohibitively expensive, unless DH builds it and even then it’s not cheap. That got tabled and we decided he should work more on the other projects. The big DIY project uses jigging and the company which sells that has a sale or two each year. We decided to try and buy the jigs on sale and maybe that’s it this year and tackle the project itself, materials and hardware, next year.

Things are selling at the antique store, which is really nice, since I only have 3 more weeks in that booth! On the other hand, I don’t think anything has sold in the new book booth, but I need to redo things a bit before that will happen I guess?