Tag Archives: figuring it out

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.

 

 

Finding the Cheat

See the previous post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about!

Here’s how I found all those “cheats” to use fewer supplies, whether they be lightbulbs, potting soil, toothpaste or frozen food.

What do you do automatically? If you become more aware of those choices, then you can try and change them. My frugal strategies apply:

  • Find a cheaper substitute.
  • Spend less for the same product.
  • Do without.

Figure out what you do automatically: How much oil or fat do you put in a pan — can you use less? Can you use a cheaper oil and have it work as well? Substituting margarine for butter in baked goods doesn’t work in my opinion. For me, it seems to be how much the fat determines the taste of the dish. YMMV!  How do you decide how much TP to use at once? Try delaminating 2-ply and see if it won’t cause you to use less? Worked for me! Pizza toppings: If you love a certain frozen pizza, but hate one topping (or your kid does) and automatically toss it? Can you find a way to use the tossed food? I’m not talking about allergies, of course you shouldn’t keep foods you or yours are allergic to, but preferences. You could use frozen bits of onion or peppers in soups or meatloaf, for example. Sausage pieces could be used in scrambled eggs.

Pay attention to your automatic behavior and the waste it causes. Then try to use what you’ve wasted before.

Use the internet or other resources to help: Try different routes on googlemaps is there a shorter route? Use gasbuddy to find the cheapest gas locally. Find new ways to use up leftovers. Try to make your own foods: bake bread, grow herbs, make gravy.

“If I was broke, what would I do differently?” Many times this shows me what I’m wasting or suggests ideas. I made sauted greens last night for dinner. I took the stems off because DH hates “stringy” greens. Instead of tossing them, I put them in the freezer for smoothies or to be added to soup.

Ask a pro! People who do things for work quickly find the easiest and fastest way to do things. They frequently know the cheapest way too. I found out about the shampoo concentrates at beauty supply shops by asking a hair stylist where the salon bought their shampoo? Another example: my dad, when looking for a new home refrigerator went to the biology department at the college where he worked and asked which refrigerator they’d recommend?

If this works with one thing in 5, it still counts! The idea that it has to save dollars right away or it doesn’t count is EXPENSIVE!

Every little cost-savings idea you use counts.

Each dollar is

100 pennies after all!

 

 

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!

 

Pulling It Together

I have notebooks, pages, cards, file boxes of various sorts, tracking what I do or want to do. It’s a mess.

I started an index  today with the idea that I will cull/organize the mountain of paper into a usable tool, or set of tools. Since this incorporates several years (decades?) of planning, successful and not, it’s not a small task and will take me some time. A week or perhaps longer. I took a pic of the dining table awash in paper, but have to download it.

It occurred to me that I’m overwhelmed with the various tasks I’ve set myself. The cull and clean up of the house and stuff is a daunting task. Also, I have these various bits and pieces which worked (and didn’t). I don’t want to throw away work when I don’t have to, but have no need to keep it all forever, either.

So, it begins!

  • Loose-leaf binders for the seven levels of stuff cleaning plan. (2)
  • Teacher’s attendance notebooks, also used for the seven levels. (2)
  • Monthly Notebooks, for filing things which are done that way (12)
  • Category Notebooks, for filing clippings (5, I think?)
  • File boxes for the monthly notebooks (2)
  • Garden clippings and book in another file box (1)
  • Various cards, card pockets, and files (?)

I’m not sure what I missed, but I’m sure there are pieces not included in the list above.

It’s a mess.

A Life List

I wondered what had happened to all my “life lists.” The Life List is a technique I used for many years to help me figure out who I was, without the overlay of abuse, the abuser, and others’ opinions.

I found one this morning in a box of papers. This list is over 30 years old. I quit smoking in my 20s. My current reactions are in bold below.

Much of this list, 4 pages, were pictures of china from the Sunday newspaper’s magazine. The patterns are mostly pastel, stylized flowers on white backgrounds.  I still like the china patterns, although of the seven I cut out, only one is something I still really like. It’s yellow spider mums on a white background, called “Dreaming” by Denby. I’d include an image but can’t find one to copy, sorry!

Aside from the china, the list says:

…herbs hanging by a string, I do this.

an orange/clove pomander in every closet, I don’t do this.

growing vegetables in pots, I don’t do this.

a fave radio station’s call letters I’d probably still listen to that station, if we didn’t live on the other side of the country!

small white ashtrays at pier 1 I don’t smoke any more.

The white German china which was my Mom’s and the Corning Centuraware my Dad used as everyday. I have some of each, so they’re still “me.”

A list of flowers: columbine, lily of the valley, miniature roses, daffs, vinca, Icelandic poppies I still like all of these, but don’t grow many flowers.

Linen placemats/table cloths, Definite change here: I have cloth placemats, but rarely use a table cloth.

Berries for breakfast.  Yum!

I thrive on change – a man who can rest but not stop. Not the way I see my former self. I don’t think I  really thrived on change, but I desperately wanted it since this is from the time in my life when the emotional pain was constant. 

Not interested in a man who rests but doesn’t stop — in some ways. In others? Yes, this is still true. 

Wrap around skirts, bell sleeves, capes. I still like these, but don’t wear them. I’m pear shaped, so they’re not flattering any more.

A plain shoe doesn’t drown out you! Who cares? But I still wear shoes which are pretty simple.

Lastly: Perky, smart, happy, pretty … such are dreams. I find this sad.


Some of this is taste, obviously. Some of it’s who I wanted to be or how I wanted to be seen.

It’s hard to explain to someone who doesn’t understand the need for this how much these lists meant. They were affirmation, vindication, and hope all in one.


I threw the pages out after I wrote this. Interesting? Yes. Do I want to keep it?

No.

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.

 

I Have Been

Working hard — on the house. I’ve been following my cleaning plan.

It seems to me that a major shift is in order. Instead of trying to sell the memoir as a psych. program auxiliary piece, maybe what I need to do is sell the cleaning plan and make the memoir the back piece to that.

It would solve the problem of the memoir just not having a plot, being first-person, too short, and a mess of other issues. Of course, I still haven’t heard from my publisher, but my feeling is that I will not. Not now and not in the future. It will be as if it dropped into a black hole and vanished… poof!

This has completely stopped the work I was doing on the memoir. I had even talked to a friend about coding it for an ebook. Okay, fine.

I can’t sell the cleaning plan if I can’t use it, right? I can’t set myself up as an expert on anything unless I can actually DO whatever. (Well, that’s not true. These days the woods are full of blow-hard know-it-alls who make pronouncements about any and everything. EVERYONE is an expert, about anything they feel strongly about!)

But I was raised by someone who genuinely was an expert in his field. My brother is. My husband is too. I have been surrounded my entire life by men who are really good at their jobs, and became “experts.”

So I have standards about about what it takes to BE an expert:

  • You must know what you’re talking about.
  • You must be able to do something rather than just talk about the subject.
  • You must have some sort of track record, that is a history, of successfully being able to do whatever it is.

My dad taught aeronautics  and designed airplanes for 40 years, my brother has worked in his field for the same amount of time and he’s still teaching and writing about it, my husband has been in his field since the field started, about 30 years now.

Me? The only thing I’m expert in is the inner workings of my head. The memoir is 50 years of life & learning and took me 10 years to write. The cleaning plan started in one way when I started this blog in 11/2011. I’ve been whacking away at the problems since.

I couldn’t do the memoir until I did the trauma work.

I could write, but not use, the cleaning plan until I did the memoir.

So, we’ll see if the next step is what I want/hope it to be? That is, using the cleaning plan, make it  a habit, and a book and/or app is the next step. (Habits take 90 days to be established.)

I sure hope so! I don’t know that I have the patience to spend 10 more years on this project.

So, I’ve shifted gears. I was all set to publish the memoir, whack away at the cleaning plan, then when I finally got it to work, get it ready for publication.

Nope.

Doing it the other way around. Going to get the cleaning plan working,  finish up the writing related to it, get DH or someone to make the app I have in mind, then publish the CLEANING PLAN, with the MEMOIR as back material.

Then the lack of “plot” or “arc” or sex, drugs, rock n’ roll won’t matter. I’m not selling the memoir; it’s explanatory material, I’m selling the cleaning plan. Want to know why I set the cleaning plan up the way I have? Read the memoir and you’ll find out.

street signs

Image is not mine, not sure where I got it. Sorry!