Monday, November 5, 2012

Finding Balance-As Always

Every so often I have a "brain cramp" about what to write.  My goal is to keep this blog about frugal/fixed income retirement in general.  Sometimes though, I sit down to empty paper or computer.  I need to remind my self that rather than conscious effort, frugal retirement is about every day experiences and routines.  Almost anything I do, or talk about, has sometime to do with how I manage on my income (creatively or otherwise).

This week, one of my projects is to work out some kind of long term grocery list.  I (we) eat a fair amount of fresh food, so eliminating grocery trips for produce and milk would never work out. I would like to be able to get ALL of the non perishables I need at once, and as much meat and fish as my freezer will hold.  This is a new habit for me. I'll still fill in on occasion with great loss leader deals. My goal here is not preparation in and of itself-it's a financial strategy. I want to slowly move to a single payday (my two paydays are different times of the month) to pay all regular expenses once a month and treat groceries as much as possible as a regular expense. Then I can be more flexible (or less flexible) with what's left.

Part of the process is making a list of what we eat regularly (I enjoy trying new dishes but that's a separate issue and much easier to do if you have everything you need on hand). This can be eye opening. Five to six days a week, breakfast around here tends to be oatmeal, frozen made by me waffles, or an egg dish. Yogurt has never been a food group in this house.  I'm working on developing the smoothie thing, but I'm not there yet.  Lunch is equally simple. Peanut butter and jelly, leftovers, soup. Round this out with fruits and veggies (OJ, green salads, fruit of the season) and you have really simple meals-by choice.  Snacks seem to follow the same trend (I'm trying to eat three snacks a day). We eat whatever we pull out of the fridge during the day, as a rule.

On the other hand, I like dinners to be more involved (especially on the weekends).  We often have wine with our meals. Lamb, veal (yes, I know how it's raised), fish and seafood enter our repertoire-as do the occasional gourmet ingredients. We also regularly drink soda, bake, have really good coffee and treat our dogs with the kindness they deserve. Actually I'm going to start cooking chicken and rice for the dogs, but that's another story for another time.

As in many aspects of life (at least mine), our eating style is one of mainly simple seasonal comfort food interspersed with splurges (and when I say splurges I mean caloric as well as spending choices here). While our eating style is unplanned (although I expect similar to many others), the end result is a feeling of plenty (again, not just in the financial sense). I suppose this is a metaphor for life in general. Balance.

This morning I actually had eggnog. It's seasonal and it's a weakness. At least I use little eggnog and fair amount of milk. I justify it by calling it a breakfast drink (I do know better). Lunch was fruit, crackers and cheese, with popcorn as a snack. Dinner though, was lobster ravioli, homemade garlic break, salad, wine, and sand tarts for dessert. Tomorrow I'll be back to oatmeal on the patio with my kindle-and loving it.

On my sewing table today: wine themed coasters, table runners and cocktail napkins. At my bedside tonight: Living Our Faith (a reread that's worth it). On the telly:  Monday night football and Dancing with the Stars. Sometimes mindless drivel really is the best choice.


  1. Barb,

    I use a freezer and a large set of basement shelves for "opportunity buying" that saves me lots of money on food.

    I grab meats and canned goods on special when they are offered and "bank" them for future eating. (I portion-divide the meats before freezing.) I can honestly say that I have not paid retail for beef, pork, cheicken, etc in years. Same for canned veggies, soups, etc.

  2. Alex, I used to do this when we were a larger group. Now its just me and my college student so I dont do loss leader nearly as much-mainly because that requires weekly shopping and multiple stores. I do get the catalinas and sale stuff from one store when I am in the mood, but other than that I do monthly shopping.

  3. I love to cook and sometimes when I go to 3 stores for the "loss leaders" I come out with more stuff I should not have bought.I am trying to tighten it up my grocery bill and trips,too. too.

    I have found that getting out my cookbooks and recipe cards and making a list of 30 meals we LOVE, helps.

    I pretty much know what ingredients i need for each meal.

    I pick 6 meals from the list and then do a grocery list.OR--I often do a TWO WEEK meal list thenI can stock up on ingred. I know I will need a week later too. I always shop once a week, produce at SPROUTS and then a FRY's or Walmart trip .(sorry)

    When you know the 30 or so meals you LOVE you are always on the lookout for ingredients you use regularly, when they are on sale.

    I am cutting back the # of trips I make per week.ONCE a week, and MAYBE one more "tiny" trip if I really have to.

    planning ahead helps so much.

    When I find the meal on my plan is not appealing I just switch it up with something else. I also keep bags of Trader Joe CIOPPINO in freezer for when I HAVE TO HAve a semi gourmet meal,don't wanna cook much or go out.

    For instance this week we are having:

    1. Home-made Tortilla Soup and cornbread
    2. Pinto Beans in crock pot (made with a ham hock) and the cornbread and some coleslaw
    3. Linguini and clams and roasted asparagus
    4. Fish fry, (homemade) cole slaw, mashed potatoes, broccoli
    5. Pork roast with apples and onions, roasted potatoes, sweet and sour cabbage
    6. Chicken Naranja with brown rice and asparagus and a large Greek salad.

    Usually enough leftovers for meal 7! Or, we go get burritos locally.

    Breakfasts: same as yours
    Lunches: I always have a home made soup in refrig and leftovers.

    Hope this helps!

  4. Madeline, you are very enterprising. I USED to do much of that. Now my time is important to me and I go to one store for the loss leaders.

    I do however still plan menus from my pantry rather than shop to a list


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