Saving money?

A few years ago, I started using coupons and following all of these blogs about how you can save so much money by using coupons.  I was able to get a lot of things for free or, at least, close to free.  But (and you knew there would be a “but”, didn’t you?) now I’m trying to clean out my kitchen, organize, simplify, and minimize.

I’ve slowly been cleaning out cabinets.  Going through my dishes hasn’t been all that difficult as I tend to do that every year.  Since I very rarely buy any new dishes (except  for travel mugs/glasses for work…that’s a whole different blog post), I’m finally at a place where I don’t have a lot to get rid of.

Now I’m tackling the pantry.  Since I haven’t been feeling well (gosh, for what?  Like the past three years?), I’m just doing a little bit each evening while doing the dishes.  I started on one shelf, took out boxes and cans, checking the expiration dates.  I’m ashamed to admit how many cans of veggies or soup I’ve tossed because they were well past the expiration date.  Anyhow, my method is to go through the items until I’ve found a minimum of five items to discard.  Some days that’s pretty quick work.

pantry...before

pantry…before

You know, I was so proud of myself for being able to save so much money when I was buying all of this stuff.  But, honestly, how much money did I really save when I’m now pitching probably half of what I bought?

I’ve learned a couple of lessons here.  One, don’t buy so much processed food.  Fresh is healthier and I tend to actually use it because I knowingly buy small quantities so it won’t go bad on me.  Two, I’m not really saving money if the things I buy end up in the trash.  Okay, make it three lessons.  One person doesn’t need a lot.  When you see all of those stockpiles people have created, it’s not meant for one person.

I’m going to continue cleaning out the pantry.  I don’t know exactly how long it’ll take to get it done, but I’ll eventually finish it.  I’ll do a post later about my pared down pantry (hmm…I’ll have to remember that for the title).

Do you buy more than you need and then toss a lot?  I know a lot of folks say they do that with fresh produce, is that where you have issues?  Or is it in other areas?

Just peachy

English: Autumn Red peach. Français : Pêches E...

English: Autumn Red peach. Français : Pêches Español: Durazno cortado por la mitad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know about you all, but I love, absolutely adore, fresh peaches.  Now I’m not talking about those little hard things you can buy at the grocery store.  Nope.  I’m talking about  those huge, tree-ripened, juicy peaches that you can only find for a short time every summer.  And now’s the time.

I’m not-so-patiently waiting for Greg to bring me some from Huber’s Orchard.  He told me he would.  Oh, how I hope he does.  I can just about taste that sweet burst of peachiness as you take a big bite and then have to laugh because the juice dribbles down your chin.  Maybe tomorrow…I hope tomorrow.  If not?  Well, I do have a bit of a contingency plan.   There’s a little orchard on the west side of Bloomington…not too far from where I work.  I can always swing by there after work and pick up a peck of perfectly plump peaches.

The window is open for such a short stretch of time…better get ’em  while the gettin’s good!

Bread baking

trio of bread

trio of bread (Photo credit: kidmissile)

First, let me say, I love bread…but not just any old bread.  I like the artisan style breads…homemade breads…breads with some texture.  So you won’t see me buying a loaf of pre-sliced pre-packaged fluffy, spongy white bread…you know, the kind that is so loaded with preservatives that it will keep for a couple of weeks.  I couldn’t tell you the last time I ate that stuff (see, I can’t even call it bread).

I like the bread made with whole grains and seeds, but have you ever noticed how expensive that kind of bread is?  Well, I have.  That got me thinking about making my own bread.  I used to do that a lot, then working a lot of hours kind of got in the way.  But now I’ve decided to go ahead and start baking bread again.  That decision led me to wondering about bread machines.  I’ve never used one, don’t own one, am not sure that I really want one.  Yes, it would be convenient to be able to just throw the ingredients in and have the machine do all of the work.  But…there again, there’s the cost involved.  So what’s a girl to do?

I’ve looked online at the local “yard sales” on Facebook as well as some of the trader sites…so far nothing.  I’m going to stop at Goodwill one of these days and see if they happen to have one.  See, I’m kind of hesitant to spend much on something that I may not like…so looking to go the cheap route until I’m sure.  So, I guess my question for you all is, do you use a bread machine (if, of course, you bake your own bread) and what kind do you recommend?

Oh…I did bake some bread when I got home from work today.  Corn bread with stone ground cornmeal from Spring Mill State Park in my old home town of Mitchell, Indiana…stop by if you’re in the neighborhood…very cool place to visit.

After living below the line…

Bread

Bread (Photo credit: ulterior epicure)

…grocery shopping.  Okay, not that I really needed to go to the grocery store.  I have plenty of food in my house, plenty.  But I was hungry when I got off work today and found myself wandering the aisles at Kroger.

I was pleased with most of what I brought home..watermelon, sugar snap peas, pico de gallo, chicken, artisan multigrain bread, sweet potato crackers…and then there was the diet Pepsi…oh yeah, and the ice cream sandwiches…ha!!  I told you I had a hankering for something with chocolate…not that the chocolate in those things is particularly high quality.

It sure tasted good to have a slice of that artisan bread rather than the store brand stuff I’d been eating all week.  Granted, we can all make our own bread and it most definitely tastes tons better than the cheap stuff you can find in the stores…but we usually don’t take the time to bake our own bread.  And I really don’t know why.  It doesn’t really take that long…it’s not like you have to stand over it the entire time it’s rising.  Surely it would be less expensive to bake our own bread rather than buy even the cheap stuff, wouldn’t you think?  Maybe I’ll have to do a study on that one…

Anyhow, I’m glad I took part in the challenge…and oh so thankful that I don’t have to live like that every day.

Live below the line, day 5

Easter egg radishes, just harvested

Easter egg radishes, just harvested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thank goodness, this is the last day of this challenge.  I had a rough time today…had a rough day at work…so busy that I didn’t have time to take breaks or lunch…headache from not eating…really, really wanted to stop and get a pizza after work, but talked myself out of it…if I were truly living in extreme poverty, stopping for a pizza wouldn’t even be a possibility…so I did make it thru the final day.

Let’s see, how did I do?

Breakfast:

(Once again)…2 slices of toast  10¢,  1 T peanut butter  6¢,  6 oz oj  14¢,  8 oz skim milk 15¢

Total for breakfast…45¢

Lunch:

no lunch…no time…did drink a diet Pepsi tho…so the cost of that was  46¢, so I’ll count that as my lunch

Total for lunch  46¢

Dinner:

grilled cheese sandwich   20¢, radishes (free-someone asked about the radishes really being free, cost of the seeds and all…yes, I did buy seeds a couple of years ago, but let one of the radish plants go to seed last year and saved the seeds…so surely we can consider that to be free now, right?), celery  8¢, pickle chips  14¢, hot tea 4¢

Total for dinner…46¢

Total for the day  $1.37

So…not the healthiest of days today…but I did it.

What did I take away from this challenge?  Well, obviously how difficult it is to eat a healthy, nutritious diet when you have to scrounge for pennies to buy your food.  Also how much planning and preparation would go into being able to eat even semi-well for such a miniscule amount of money.  I definitely have a greater appreciation for my mom and grandmother and all of the time they put into gardening, preserving what they grew or gathered, and cooking.   That’s a lot of work…and they did it year in and year out.  But we always had enough to eat and a much better variety of food than what I spent the past week eating.

I have always thought we need to teach people to be self-sufficient…after this week, I believe that even more.  Now to figure out how to go about doing that…what organizations are already doing this?  And what can I do to help?

 

Live below the line, day 4

These children live in a garbage dump

These children live in a garbage dump (Photo credit: GlacierTim)

I’m not sure if today was easier or harder…I had the day off work, so was actually surrounded by food and all of the possibilities that presents…I thought I’d go in the kitchen and bake a batch of cookies (hmm…with chocolate, anyone?).  And maybe prepare a pizza for dinner.  I actually have all of the ingredients for both in my kitchen right now, so I wouldn’t have to buy anything.  But I think that kind of goes against what this challenge is all about.  Yes, I have the food in my kitchen, but if I had to live on only $1.50 a day long-term, chances are I wouldn’t have what I need to make those yummy cookies. So I resisted, telling myself it’s just today and tomorrow.

And that’s where I think we can learn a lesson.  For us, it’s just today and tomorrow.  For the chronically impoverished, there is no end in sight.  They can’t say “I’ll make it through today and tomorrow on only $1.50 a day, then I can spend whatever I want on food and drink.”  For them, it’s a matter of how can I possibly stretch this money?  How can I buy the basics?  What do I have to give up in order to buy food today?  Where can I come up with a few cents extra today?

This really makes me sad.  When I think of how much money our country spends on our elected officials’ pet projects, all of the waste in our government, I get angry.  Angry that the people we elect have turned their backs on the poor and needy among us and are falling all over themselves to give additional breaks to the super wealthy and multi-national corporations.  Children, in our country, or anywhere else, shouldn’t have to go to bed hungry.  I would love to see some of my tax money going to provide additional funds for community gardens, for providing free seeds so people could grow a few vegetable plants on their patio or windowsill.   Helping people help themselves.

I always tell people to get out there and vote.  That voting the lousy politicians out is the only way we can implement the programs with which we agree.  But what if none of the politicians are supporting an agenda with which you agree?

Anyhow, stepping down from my political soap box now…how did I do today?  Fairly well…despite the desire for something sweet and yummy.

Breakfast:

(Surprise, surprise)…2 slices of toast  10¢,  1 T peanut butter  6¢,  6 oz oj  14¢,  hot tea  4¢

Total for breakfast…34¢

Lunch:

1 chicken tender  30¢, 1 slice bread  5¢, radishes (free), celery  8¢, 1/2 banana  9¢, hot tea 4¢

Total for lunch…56¢

Dinner:

bowl of cereal  8¢, 8 oz milk  15¢, 1/2 banana 9¢

Total for dinner…32¢

Snack:

hot air-popped popcorn…16¢, butter  2¢, Parmesan cheese  3¢, hot tea  4¢

Total for snack…25¢

Total for the day  $1.47

The popcorn really tasted good…I may actually eat that as a snack more often rather than microwave (convenient) popcorn.  So I managed to make it through another day…wow…this sure makes me appreciate my grandmother and her struggles a lot more…I bet she could have done this challenge easily…and probably preparing better food than I’ve been eating.

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Live below the line, day 3

Poverty

Poverty (Photo credit: carlaarena)

This is not getting any easier!  I had to work a mid-shift today (10:30-7…blah), ate breakfast before I went in, had a meeting to prepare for and then the actual meeting itself, so didn’t really eat lunch.  Had dinner at 5.  So it was kind of an odd eating day for me.  I haven’t figured up my total cost of food for the day yet, but I can’t imagine that I went over…we’ll see…

Breakfast:

2 slices toast  .10, 1 T peanut butter  .06, 6-oz oj  .14,  milk  .15  (sound familiar?  this is actually what I eat just about every morning)

Total for breakfast was 45 cents

Snack:

crackers  .14, hot tea  .04

Total for snack was 18 cents

Dinner:

1 chicken tender  .30, 1 slice bread .05, radishes  free (from my garden),  celery  .08, hot tea  .04, frozen fruit  .42

Dinner’s total was .89

So that makes the total for the day $1.52

There are a lot of folks participating in this challenge.  I’ve been reading some of their blogs this week.  I think we’re all getting a glimpse into the lives of people who live in extreme poverty.  Enough of a glimpse to feel a lot of compassion, I’m sure.  But I can’t help but  think that there’s an end in sight for us whereas, for many of these people, there isn’t. I feel for people who live their lives without a lot of hope, without the belief that it can ever be different for them.  I hope everyone will donate to their local food banks, donate to worldwide poverty relief organizations, help the neighbor or family member who has fallen on tough times…but what I would really like to see is our politicians join forces to make this better.  Do I have a lot of hope that this will happen?  Not unless enough of us demand it.