Time Versus Convenience

I’ve started trying to reduce my grocery lists, replacing store bought items with things I’ve produced at home. When looking online for ideas, the most common thing I’ve come across is laundry detergent.

To be honest, I don’t get it. Rather than buying one item, I’d now be buying several. And then mixing them, and storing them in a different container. They may be cheaper, but that’s not simpler, which is also my goal, as I focus on minimalism and reprioritizing my life.

I love gardening, which led to my interest in canning. Which somehow managed to lead me to dehydrating. It must have been the herbs that did that one. I happened to be making spaghetti sauce, and added store bought dried oregano.

I had the thought…wait a minute, I’m growing oregano! So as I dried herbs last year, I got to thinking, what other spices could I replace at home? I don’t just want to buy something different at the store, but instead not need to buy the item at all.

Last year, I grew cayenne peppers for the first time. I had no idea what I was going to do with them when I planted it, but I was in the mood to see what we could do. And, oh my, that little pepper plant produced! I’ve never see so many peppers on a plant–and it kept going at that pace all season.

I had cayenne peppers coming out of my ears. In desperation, I ended up drying those suckers whole. Last night, I pulled them out, trimmed the tops and removed the seeds. I ground them in the coffee grinder, and ended up with beautiful cayenne powder.

The color is even more gorgeous in person. And the strength of the peppers is so much stronger than store bought. Sounds wonderful, right? Uh, not so fast!

The coffee grinder is not airtight. And I wanted the powder to be very fine. So I got a cloud of powder airborne. I tried to keep it contained by placing a paper towel over the grinder, but whenever I opened it to add more peppers, I also released more powder into the air.

Long story short, I quickly ended up with a burning nose and face. Heck, it’s the next day and my fingertips still aren’t happy with me.

So how important it is to produce something at home versus buying it at the store? The store is definitely more convenient. And there’s definitely a time investment to producing an item at home. But there’s more than to consider.

Will I do it again? Maybe. If I’m armed with latex gloves and a dust mask. And as long as the Dawn and rubbing alcohol are on standby.

Yes, the Dawn and rubbing alcohol really do work. I promise.

Two Ways to be Rich

There is a quote from Jackie French Koller that I absolutely love, so I thought I would share it. 

There are two ways to be rich: One is by acquiring much, and the other is by desiring little. 

I think this is something we should all consider more often. So many of us struggle with feeling like we don’t have enough. But enough what? What exactly are our priorities?

I think of budgets as a priority list. If it’s important to you, it will be the first thing to budget. That’s where the saying “Pay yourself  first” comes from. If establishing an emergency fund is your number one priority, make it happen.

But it’s easy to lose sight of priorities. Especially when you’re tired or in a hurry. At those momemts it’s so much easier to grab a bite at a restaurant, or that pick-me-up fancy coffee.  And when reading about sticking to a budget, those items are always the ones mentioned, right?

What if you’re like me and hate coffee? It’s easy to say, “That’s not me,” and move on. But we all have our weaknesses. The important thing is to identify what yours is and have a plan to combat it.

I know so many people who say if only the made X amount of money, it would be so much better. But the raises and bonuses always go to the newest, biggest whatever to replace something that is still perfectly serviceable. I think the second portion of the quote especially applies to them.

If you’re always focused on what you don’t have, how can you appreciate what you do have? If we were to really consider our individual purchases, big and small, and ask ourselves are we desiring less, it would be much easier to stick to our budget and get ahead.

This Week’s Menu

One part of running a household that I’ve always detested is menu planning. I admit to being a picky eater and preferring a more limited diet than what I should be eating. Plus, it’s very easy for me to get into a routine, buying the same items at the store, and making the same meals over and over.  And trust me, hearing lots of complaints about dinner, but no suggestions does not make for a happy cook!

My solution was to go back to meal planning, but this time, involve the family. My husband is more than happy to make suggestions and be experimented on. The girls, not so much.

Each week, I take a look at next week’s schedule and figure out how many “fast” meals we’ll need. Each girl selects a meal they want, and my husband and I tackle the rest.

Winter is coming, though you can’t really tell with the sun shining and temperatures still in the 50s. But you’ll be able to see its influence in the selections we made. I try to focus on (relatively) healthy meals that do not break the bank or take hours to make.

Saturday: Lemon pepper rainbow trout with baked potatoes.

Sunday: Potato soup. This is a soup made with broth and dill, not the usual creamy potato style.

Monday: Chicken breasts and salad

Tuesday: Parmesan tilapia. This is a staple and one of the few ready made items I’ll buy. It is cooked from frozen and great for those crazy, busy nights we all have.

Wednesday: Another soup. This one was Asian style with bok choy, noodles, and shrimp.

Thursday: Since this night was busy, we did beef stew in the crockpot. It was wonderful coming home and already having dinner ready and waiting.

Friday: Spaghetti made with turkey meatballs for half, and kale/quinoa “meat”balls for the other half. The sauce was canned this past summer.

As you can see, I try to keep meals simple, and mostly frugal. While we had beef one night, it was a pound of stew meat, rather than a couple pounds of steak.  Soups are excellent, especially during winter. They help stretch the food, and reheat wonderfully. It is unusual for us to have it three times in a week, though!

Sticking to the Budget

Yesterday was my third weekly “deposit” into the grocery fund. As you can see in the picture below, I just track the stores I go to and the amount I spend at each. As with everything else in my life, I try to keep it simple. And even better, I think last week I may have found my shopping method.

First, all week, I keep a list of things the family needs or wants. For instance, as the last of the peanut butter is used, it goes on the list. Then when I’m compiling my final grocery list, I estimate the cost for each item. If the list totals more than $80.00, I go back and pare it down, crossing off items that can wait until next week. If there is additional room in the budget (yea!), I’ll add “extras” for the week. These items are typically stock up items that are in the store circulars and are paired with coupons and/or rebates.

By leaving $20.00 in the budget, I allow for mid week grocery stops in case we run out of bananas (pretty usual in my family) or other items that I don’t want or can’t wait to replace.

And a bonus topic: a few more rebate apps! I don’t use these next three that often, but they are great to use if you’re buying their listed items. Check out Shopmium,  Snap! (by Groupon), and BerryCart.  Shopimum only has a few items at a time, but are fast with funding their rebates. A word of caution on Snap: the rebates go fast, so keep an eye on it.  BerryCart specializes in organic,  non GMO items that often don’t have coupons and aren’t listed on other grocery apps..

Making the Budget Work
Making the Budget Work