Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Day the Frugal Retiree Gave Up Cooking (Sort Of)

I have a confession to make. Well, I suppose it's not a real confession as many long time readers know this fact already:  I don't like to cook.  More important than that, I am not a very good cook at all. Baking now, that's a separate area.  I lived for almost thirty years with a guy who was a true chef, and have other family members (most of them male) who cook and cook really well. I do not cook well. I do not necessarily love to cook. What can I say? I an not one of those many retirees who finds cooking a hobby or relaxing.

On the other hand, I do like to eat.  I don't want to eat fast food or take out as such all the time, and I am never gonna be that popcorn, veggies and dip for dinner person. So what's a girl to do, especially a frugal girl?

As part of this frugal blog, I've shared before about shopping for three people and two dogs on less than $300 a month (sometimes much less), while eating very, very well. Our diet includes all kinds of meat including lamb, wine and beer and more. The only problem is, in addition to cooking many things from scratch, there was a certain amount of organization involved-and I've apparently lost or given up many of my organizational skills in retirement. I have better things to do than cook and shop at this point in my life. I especially have no patience for the planning of what to eat every night. Family cooks who have planned a weeks worth of meals for five or seven days a week since kids were small will understand, I am sure. The deciding is at least as difficult as the preparation itself.

As of last week, we are eating and shopping a little differently around here, experimenting if you will. I am purchasing many "fend for yourself" type foods such as good quality cold cuts and salads, a quiche, precooked chicken and burgers. We now have cut up fruits and one of those big veggie trays with the dip.

I am blessed to have good take out in my area, so we will probably do that a couple times a week. By takeout I mean places like Downtown dinners, that has ready made meals for three or six. I mean my local Rav House that has pasta and ready to go meals (fresh and frozen) that feed three people each. I also am taking advantage of my grocery deli to get things like a roasted chicken, three large crab cakes and more. Yes, I know many of you think that homemade crab cakes are really easy to make and that taking advantage of the seafood section is a cheat-so did my late husband. Only he's no longer here to cook for me.

Last but not least, I am actually cooking-one or two days a week. Easy meals that require the slow cooker or the oven. Meals that I can double and freeze. Meals that hopefully, I cannot ruin. Meals that can be doubled or tripled and frozen saving me from cooking another time. Meals that can be cooked on my super sized grill and then cut up into salads and the like. This week those meals include buffalo style regular sized drumsticks, and grilling three pork tenderloins at the same time.

I'm still the queen of the coupons, and I still stock up even though we are just two (two and a half, I suppose). After all, buying and stocking up means I don't have to cook as much, just as cooking and freezing does as well. I still only buy the loss leaders when I shop for regular food-I just plan on using them differently.

What will happen to my retirement grocery budget?  Who knows?  What will happen to this plan in cooler weather?  It waits to be seen. I am letting go of something in retirement, and saving my limited cooking skills for when I have time and energy. 

And as for that grocery bill?  What will be will be. Within reason.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

$100 Face Cream and Kmart Shirts-Balancing Spending in Retirement

I have dry skin. Not Oil of Olay dry skin (not to pick on that specific brand). The kind of dry skin that makes me want to moisturize not only in the morning, but again during the day-making minimal makeup a requirement. Anytime I talk about frugal or streamlined fashion/grooming in retirement, I get many comments on the evils of the cosmetics industry. I also get all kinds of shares on how basic grocery store personal products are all you need.

Only.......none of those products work for me. Now before you all jump in to comment, remember where I live. Folks that live almost anywhere on the eastern seaboard, Northern pacific Coast, Gulf Coast and part of the Midwest have a differing understanding of dry that those of us in the western Plains and mountain states. No humidity means that warm and cold feel entirely different than the bone chill of the East coast.  But there are two sides to every coin....

I have finally given up trying to find grocery store or pharmacy products, and moved on to Macy's. After allowing the lovely sales person you show and explain and show some more, I left the store with a jar of $50 night cream and one the same price for the daytime that has sunscreen in it. I also bought other items like cleanser. 

A couple weeks later I am thrilled. No double moisturizing, I don't need a lot off the stuff. Happy camper here. Fear not, I have not drunk the proverbial kool-aid. I still use mid-range hair products and store brand body wash, as well as coloring my own hair. But we all have areas of spending versus no spend and I guess these are mine.

On the other hand-or at the other extreme some might say- are my Kmart and thrift store clothing purchases. After going down a size and a half in the past year, my warm weather wearable inventory included one pair of shorts, one pair of crop pants and two skirts (tops and dresses all still wearable). Since I am thinking that I will be wearing a different size next year and because my days are more casual as more messy, I've kept my replacement purchases at the extreme cheapskate end of the spectrum. Bright tops and solid bottoms in the fifteen dollar range to 25 dollar range, and that's the very rare maximum purchase. As someone who usually buys quality to last, buying this way has been an experience on so many levels.  But this is only for one year, and it works for me.

I don't know about anyone else,  but for me frugal retirement is about these two extremes when it comes to both money and time allocations, rather than everything in the middle. I keep as tight as grocery budget as I can for someone who hates to cook, but I'm willing to go to a five star restaurant one to three times a year and eat well. I now stay only in midrange hotels on the road, no motels of any kind. But I have a gourmet picnic  backpack and  am happy to eat sandwiches, fruit and homemade snacks on eighty percent of any trip.

Even on so called spend as I want days I  purchase good quality clothing only at end of season sales. However, as many readers may recall, spending  $100 on really good shoes last year was something I did without a second thought. And of course, I purchase fabric and  craft items the way a normal shopaholic buys clothes, and I have two sewing machines and a serrger, and use them all.

Of course, I can be as big an impulse shopper as anyone else, and the evidence is my brand new Samsung tablet. It's almost twice the size of my previous kindle sized mini tablet and I love it. Verizon has gone to monthly payments and this was my first upgrade. I'm still learning the photo gallery, as well as being new to typing and editing on this instead of my laptop. So please bear with me. Oh, and I stick with Verizon because they have 4g everywhere.  Even the backwoods of Montana. I am never without a signal.

Meanwhile, today will be spent putzing around the house, anying to force myself to walk, hot as it is. Tomorrow? Time to throw the dogs in the car, hit the road and explore the local (as the saying goes).

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Going with the Flow in Retirement

Today has been a relaxing day. In fact, it's been a relaxing week. The fourth of July was spent relaxing in the back yard with good food, and then closing up the house (to save my dog's sanity and well being) and watching fireworks on the tube. Except for walking, I have not left the house-most of my social activities are cancelled for the summer and I am enjoying the down time. Tomorrow I will go to a sewing and quilting festival, Friday to an Irish Festival and then a few days again of complete down time-the perfect summer vacation if you will. No places I have to be for the most part, and no travel commitments until fall, with the exception of my two week Texas trip.

This is the time of year for enjoying the yard, taking some local trips and taking advantage of all the local summer events, or at least a few here and there. Being the laziest time of year, I've also been really paying attention to my body clock highs and lows, and have accepted a challenge to "time map" my retirement days for awhile.

And what's my body telling me? It's saying "Enough of this getting out of bed and heading full steam into the day". My body and brain want a gradual start to the morning, and since I already rise later than many of my blogging friends (as early as eight and some times as late as nine am), I need to rethink outside commitments and planning for "constructive time" in the morning. 

Yesterday, my fall catalog arrived with the senior college course programs-an early harbinger that fall will inevitably arrive. For the past two or three semesters, I have been taking been two classes, both on the same day, and enjoying a lunch on the patio in between. It sounds like a good idea, yes?  The only problem was one of two things were happening-either I was arriving to my Great Decisions class late and disturbing the class, or I was not having enough time before the morning class for a healthy breakfast and all the other things I wanted to do in the morning.

As of today I am saying no to morning social events or commitments as much as I can. I'm saving the challenging stuff, the social commitments and the classes for the afternoon or evening. I moved my volunteering gig to an afternoon time instead of 9-12 in the morning. I'm planning on taking two senior college classes, but two different afternoons. My knitting and crafting groups already meet in the afternoon or early evening, so I am already on keel there. 

There are down sides to everything, including my new planned schedule. Since Silver Sneakers classes are all at ten am, I'm probably going to miss them  more than I already have. I'll have to create my own, at home program. I've chosen not to participate in a fun one day a week program at my rec center. And since during the summer my normal eleven am service has moved to a much earlier time, I'm attending the small evening service and trying to push myself to attend the morning service once a month. I can get showered and dressed and be ready to go out of the house in thirty minutes in a pinch, but I choose not to do that as a rule.

Naturally, there will be times when I get up early, or at least earlier (I have no intention of seeing the sun rise ever again during the warm half of the year, but I can do seven am instead of nine in a pinch). Since I don't ever drive in the dark on my road trips, I try and get up earlier.  If one of my social groups wants to take a "field trip" and start early in the morning, I am not going to be the party pooper, and I've been known to meet some one for breakfast, in order to meet their schedule, as mine is more flexible.

Yesterday, I wrote out what I thought my schedule would be in September, including vacations and travel. Just looking at it made me happy, so I must be doing what's right for me. No morning commitments, four afternoon social events/volunteer gigs, and two evening classes. It's working for me.....

And for those early birds among you who are wondering about avoiding the heat of the day? I don't garden, but I do all those other cool morning things in the evening. This is when I walk, just before sunset. This is when I labor in the yard, which is rarely. This is when I enjoy the patio and yard, in the cool of the evening.

In other words, I am going with the flow-at least my flow.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Togetherness-More or Less?

I tend to visit quite a few blogs on a regular basis. As one who blogs herself, I appreciate the perspective of other boomer and retirement blogs, as well as creative blogs, money saving blogs and travel sites. I enjoy almost all of them. Unfortunately I don't link to articles from other bloggers as often as I probably should, and I rarely comment on blogs. I say this even as I know that we all appreciate comments and input and emails (an I will try to be better on this). Occasionally though, I read a blog post that I need to comment on or share here. More rarely, although there are blogs that speak to me, are those times when I want to say "Yes, This", "I can so relate", or something along this vein. And so it is with Kathy Merlino's current blog post. I hope she'll forgive me for piggy-backing to her post on the topic!

When I was in Germany, my department chief was English. She was a joy to work with, and a lovely person. (as an intelligent woman who travels in Europe and works outside the UK regularly I know that she is totally distraught about current events, but that is a story for another time) I learned more than a few phrases that are now permanently in my personal dictionary, including stone the crows, and I'll come around and knock you up. Celia's husband is retired military and the Chief of Staff. They had no children. More importantly to this discussion, they did everything together. When he was getting his doctorate, she went to the library with him. They literally spent all of their free time together and much of their lunch  and mid-day time as well. 

I remember well one of the first times that my husband went on a four day ski trip via bus with the Frankfurt Ski Club. When she realized where he was, her first comment was "You have plenty of vacation and comp time, you and your son should have gone along".  When I let her know that I had never, ever gone on any of his ski trips, she was shocked. "Don't you want to be with your husband?" I reminded her that I had a damaged knee, and that skiing was not in my proverbial wheel box of skills and never would be. Spending three and a half days sitting in the ski lodge reading or doing whatever while John was skiing with his buddies from dawn to dusk was not my idea of quality time. This was something my friend never quite grasped. She was of the belief that our time should be spent together, always. And the idea that he might be officiating a basketball game on Saturday while I was doing quilting with my friends was equally foreign to her.

My husband and I married later in life than many do. We had both been in committed relationships, and I even had a young child. More importantly, we had both lived alone for years after college and had our own habits and quirks. More importantly we each had developed our own hobbies and interests-many of which we did not share. My husband skied. He officiated a variety of sports, both youth and adult. He was active in small community theater. I had no interest in the former, could not really participate in the officiating and while I occasionally filled in helping at the dinner theater, was not really involved. My son played many sports (the reason my husband started officiating), and helped with set design and other non acting jobs at the theater. He was always an avid golfer, a hobby which my son identified with and joined him.

I on the other hand loved all forms of quilting and crafting, long distance walking (usually alone), bike riding and Volksmarching. I played pinochle. I took college classes. I could go on, but you get the drift.

 Obviously, we had many, many interests together. We both loved to travel, both locally and far away. We had both lived in Germany for many years prior to marriage, and both had already been considering moving to Germany and even retiring there (that move took along time). We both loved film, although he, having attention span issues, preferred to watch at home so he could get up and put on pause. We both loved really good food and would eat almost anything you can name (my list of things I wont touch barely passes five fingers). We both loved the theater, classical music and classical rock and bluegrass and the blues. We would love to spend the day downtown in Washington DC going in all the museums. I could go on. The thing is though, that I never thought he should stop doing what he enjoyed just because it wasn't my thing, or because I had another commitment, any more than I would have cancelled my annual quilting expedition because he would have no interest.

This this extended to other areas of our relationship-including parenting. When there was a van tour with limited seating the first year we were in Germany to visit the Battle of the Bulge site and see Patton's grave, I passed. And they both had a wonderful time. On the other hand, since my husband had no leave when we first arrived in Germany, I took my son for a week's vacation in Normandy. Where I saw every single battle location, every one. My kids are ten years apart and for many years, I was the mom who drove the girls to the mall, where I then went and saw a movie by myself, while my husband stayed home with little bit and watched the sporting events of his choice.

Prior to my husband's illness, we had begun the discussions of where to retire, and what we both needed in terms of geography and and services. We also discussed what we didn't want. As many readers know, our choice was to remain overseas, and that is very likely the long term choice I may make eventually, but that is beside the point. We were excited to be able to do the things we enjoy together more often, and both looked forward to slower times together. We also took into consideration our individual interests, and how we would fit those into our retirement lifestyle.

I know that everyone has expectations of what marriage will be like in retirement, and sometimes both views mesh and sometimes they don't. Without picking on the men, it does sometimes seem to me that men who retire seem to have the post retirement "togetherness" need more than women-but maybe my perception is skewed. I do know that for us, our togetherness really needed to be balanced by both alone time and by individual time. It always worked for us and I somehow feel sure that would have been true in retirement.

And, while we don't plan as such for death or divorce, I do have to say that I believe our lifestyle was a big help in my post widowhood world. While I did have grief and loneliness, and still do on occasion, I did not have to wonder what to do with myself. Since I had hobbies I did alone, I was not someone who looked at everything I did and rejected it out of hand. It took me some time to appreciate the joys of single travel, and sleeping alone. I missed him cooking for me, and so very much more.

On the other hand, when I quilted, went to book group, went out to lunch with friends, and went to the morning matinee?  These were things that I had always done with other friends or alone, rather than with him. So every little thing, every single day, was not a reminder of him. I can only imagine how someone who literally does everything with their spouse survives those experiences. I also had many friends, separate from my husband, and he did the same, which was a great help, but probably a topic for another day.

The bottom line is that I appreciate the kind of marriage and independence we each had, and cannot image another. But that's just me, and others need their own level of togetherness. How about you?

Monday, June 27, 2016

How About That Supreme Court, Folks!

This morning as I sat down to write, I had two blog posts in mind that I had written last week and never gotten posted. Only, before I sat down to write, I glanced at the news of the day-and decided that for this morning at least, I needed to say something else.

I have made a commitment to stay away from politics on this blog except for rare occasions, and know full well that I posted something more than mildly political not to long ago. But as a woman, especially one of a certain age, this was one I could not ignore, so bear with me and the fun stuff will be back this afternoon.

For those non-newsreaders, this morning the Supreme Court upheld abortion rights in a huge way. They did so in such a manner, that even had their been a conservative judge as number nine, those rights still would have been upheld.  In other words, all the posturing about waiting to appoint a judge who would be conservative? All for naught.

For those unfamiliar with the state of Texas laws, Texas was requiring that abortions be performed in a hospital setting, with stricter rules than for any other outpatient procedure, including colonoscopies. Couched in terms of protecting women, this was to an easy way to close down abortion and reproductive clinics in Texas, or so they thought. They court also held up a gun ban for those convicted of any kind of domestic violence that was passed at a state level.

For my very conservative friends who read this blog (of which I have more than a few) I need to add this observation-and I say this as one who lives with and is close friends with those whose politics are much more conservative than mine, so here I go:

The bottom line is that the United States as a population has advanced on social issues, and the conservative portion of the Republican part not only has not advanced, they ignore the fact that the majority of Americans do not hold their views. The majority of people in this country are in favor of reproductive rights, marriage equality and the equal treatment of all including Muslims.

In other words, I don't think the 49 percent, or the one percent, has anything to do with why Republicans, especially conservatives, consistently lose at  the national level. It's not about the economy, it's about social issues. A party platform that wants to repeal Roe V Wade and return to Don't Ask Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act is probably not going to be successful. And while I may support a Republican at the local level, depending on his views, at the national level there is simply not a snowball's chance in hell.

In other words, Donald Trump is an idiot, a buffoon and an embarrassment. If he were to win, I expect the folks who voted for him would be like the folks in England right now. Dear God, what have we done. However, in the words of my very Republican son, "He's not freaking Ted Cruz". And there you have it. You reap what you sew.

Just as an aside, my son and his conservative friends, (all of whom are slowly drifting away from the Republican party) all agree that the greatest threat to their personal future is.........the environment, global warming, and the way we treat the planet. And this comes from millennials who are struggling financially, have huge school debt and very good reason to put financial security at the top of their lists. My son would couch it in scientific terms, to paraphrase him. They are intelligent young people who know that Global warming is a fact, just as they know that their gay friends were born that way, created by God if you will. These kids are the future folks, and they don't buy the non-financial stuff that conservatives are selling-with good reason.

As a woman of my generation, of a certain age if you will, I can never relax when it comes to reproductive rights, and occasionally worry that women my daughter's age forget how they got to be where they are. But today I am encouraged on many levels, and hoping that this will be a precedent and a guideline for other states in the future on this issue.

And to the NRA folks who wanted these two spouse abusers to be allowed to carry guns? I say Ha!!! and Ha!! again.

Back to frugal retirement spending and more.....this evening.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Those Movie Theaters, My How They Have Changed

For those of you who are kindle folk, if you had one 2012 or before, you could have a nice gift card in your Amazon account.  Please follow the link in this blurb at the bottom.(assuming you are logged into your account), or go to your my account and then on the overview look at the summary page at the top (where it says "Barbara's Amazon" and shows orders pending and such. Apple used to a co-owner of Kindle as I understand it, and in 2014 they lost a price fixing class action suit. Payout was two days ago. Supposedly you should have gotten an email (I did not).

I am a movie maven. Except for one person in the world, I know more about movies than anyone else in my world (which is a large one). I am the one who my daughter calls when driving back from the Outer Banks of North Carolina at two in the morning to ask about the full cast of the first Cape Fear movie, knowing that I can answer that down to the minor characters half asleep. I'm the girl who when someone mentions a movie with Clint Eastwood "walking in the mist with school girls" can tell you the name and the year, and knows all about that survivalist movie starring Sidney Poitier, Inger Stevens, and John Cassavettes in an empty New York.  

The same is true of modern movies. I've seen the AFI top 100  (the old and the new lists), the movies with the top fifty worst villains, and the top fifty good guys, international movies and more. With the exception of a couple silent films, baby I've seen them. I'm the person who tells everyone who has said in the past year "No, I won't see Mad Max" that YES, you should see the new Mad Max (especially if you saw the old, but still). It had a 98 percent for a reason and sometimes violence is necessary for and improves a film.

I tell ya, I don't just see the great movies, but also the not so great and the just okay. I can tell you about most of the movies that used to be late nite on Elvira show, and I'm unashamed to admit it. I rarely review movies on this blog, although I am trying to more regularly review TV shows and books. I believe that people should make up their own minds about movies, and there are some other bloggers, include Rosy, who do a wonderful job.

Believe me, I did not see all these movies in the theater!  I am a night owl at heart, and while current late night TV can be as much about home shopping and talk shows, there was a time when much of late night TV was movies. For many years, I worked the two to ten shift in the medical field and had to come home and wind down for a good three hours if not more before I could possibly sleep. Add that to parents who were huge movie fans, and there you have it.

That said, I am a movie goer. I am willing to pay for movies, though these days I tend to go in the morning and on the week unless it's a group event. I go to big theaters, little local theaters, and even brew house theaters.

Being the lazy retiree that I am though, my favorite theater is the one with the reclining seats. That's right, my neighborhood theater has huge, reclining seats-with enough space between the aisles that even with my seat reclined, people can walk in front of me with ease. It also let's me reserve my seat either online or in person. I never have to worry about finding an aisle seat on the bad leg days or one that is front and center on days like this morning, when I went to see Independence Day.

And if that were not enough, they bring me drinks. And food. They bring me food. Not like in a food and movie theater food, but they do fix it so I don't have to wait in line. Because I have a reserved seat, I can go ahead and order my food (M&Ms mixed in popcorn with soda) and have it waiting when I get there.

No lines, people. No lines. About that I am never going to complain.

And as for Independence Day?  Let's just say it was worth the entrance fee and more, but could have used Will Smith's repartee.

And so it goes, on another lazy Friday in retirement.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Lazy Summer Friday

 Summer is here and the living is easy-sort of!

In the past week, most of my activities and groups have taken a summer break. No classes, no regular meetings. Other than a day of volunteering, and my regular knitting group, my summer is mainly free, and I am loving every hot and lazy minute of it. While I may travel in July, right now I am enjoying my yard and taking the "do what I feel like" thing to the extreme. Today was a lazy day, although as I look back at the end of the day, I did more than I thought.

Being the slow riser that i am, of course I got up, sat by the window and allowed myself to wake up at leisure, after which I made breakfast and picked up the house, or at least picked it up as much as I ever do.  Then, still in my long sundress lounger (I dressed for the day I expected to have, which was completely at home), I took the dogs outside and relaxed for an hour. Not reading, not writing, just swinging-and deciding how best to upgrade my poor pergola and cover it for year around use.

I had to get at least something "constructive" done with my day, so I sat down and put this quilt together for about an hour. What can I say, my niece likes ponies and pink-and purple.

After taking the dogs out in the yard for another half an hour (do you see a trend here?), I grabbed lunch and an ice cream bar and sat down to watch TV. In the daytime. Because I could. I watched an episode or so of the second season of Bloodline on Netflix, knitting when I was done eating.

After deciding not to walk or do aerobics (I move unevenly so I have straining on one side, and I smashed my foot purple and it hurts) until I can do them in a pool, I sat down to one of my many boxes of photos and started pulling. I'm not sure how to organize them, but I have  two free Shutterfly albums to make, so I figured one would be my parents. I just work on these as the mood hits me. And the gendarme with the mustache in the terrible picture on top?  That's my darling husband-in the only non-singing role in all of Fiddler on The Roof. What else is a guy who loves theater and cant sing to do when there's a musical in the works? 

My son came home from his job, we talked about his job searching and landscaping clients-in the back yard of course-and then we both looked at each other when the subject of food came up. That blank look was the notice that I had to come up with something, so I finally threw on some shorts and ran to the store to get brats, beer and salads. And then back into my lounger.

After watching the news and having grilled brats, I chilled for an hour with a book and my laptop, and then I set things out to make more of these Americana crafts when I get to them. Last but not least, I stared and my closet-for a good long while, before I got into bed with laptop and book.

Why was I staring? Well, weight loss is a double edged sword folks. After throwing out everything that did not fit me (much of which was purchased last year after I had to do the same purge), what I have left at least in the bottom department sounds like a chorus of a George Thoroughgood song. One shorts, one pant, and one skirt. I do believe it's time to try and shorten some pants or hit a thrift store or sale, if I want go out in public daily this summer. 

And so it goes, this Friday in retirement. Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer, so I'll be enjoying my shaded yard, my air conditioning, a good book and some soccer.

And so it goes this Friday in retirement!