As a teacher, off for the summer, I am especially focused on frugality. This is a time for me to review where my money has gone and why. What spending gave satisfaction? What would I do differently? With a daughter away at college, my needs are different now and I know that there is no one-size-fits-all advice. But here are some things that help me:
Reviews: I read online reviews before purchasing books and other items. Amazon.com is a great source. Read a few five star reviews, but also read some one star reviews to get a balanced view.
Food: I use recipes for inspiration and create simple meals based upon price and quality of ingredients. I've stopped buying foods with ingredients that can only be found in a laboratory. The book, What the World Eats, opened my eyes to the poor nutrition most Americans get from their diet. I've simplified eating healthy and food buying by avoiding sugar and flour. I only buy Splenda, fruit and, occasionally, date syrup for sweetening. I don't buy cereals with flour or sugar in them.
A few that pass the litmus test are: oatmeal, whole grain cream of wheat, shredded wheat, and Uncle Sam cereal (original only). I only buy brown rice. The only bread I buy is sprouted grain bread. It costs more but is healthier and more filling. The only crackers I eat are Triscuit or a house brand shredded wheat variety. I buy wild-caught salmon regularly and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. I avoid beef because cattle in the US are corn fed which makes the meat fattier. Well seasoned beans and rice is cheap and healthy. I also eat cage-free eggs. Nature is cruel but we don't have to be.
For beverages: Coffee prevents brain fog and tea is an inexpensive healthful beverage. Shakes with fresh ingredients are fun to concoct in the blender. Soups and salads are another area I can be creative. I love grilled chicken salads and fruit, nut and lettuce salads. I mostly drink almond milk because of the low sugar content, but buy other kinds, soy and cow, on occasion.
Owning two microwaves is the best thing I have done for simplying cooking. I'll cook a salmon steak in one microwave, while veggies are cooking in the other. Both are done at roughly the same time. Why didn't I think of this years ago? Small microwaves are cheap. Otherwise I don't keep many small appliances. I have to use an appliance A LOT for it to earn a place. After taking a crockpot cooking class, I realized I didn't care for the stewed flavor of most crockpot dishes and it wasn't worth keeping for the few dishes I liked but seldom made. I loved my George Foreman grill but find a good quality fry pan and the microwave are easier to clean alternatives. I use my toaster and a blender and a mini-food processor. Oh, and there is a hand blender for the rare occasions I need it.
Table cream with Splenda and vanilla served over fresh berries is a great dessert. I find it is almost impossible to bake delicious goodies and not gain weight. A baked cake or cookie substitute is cocoa, dates or date syrup, and walnuts or pecans ground in a mini-food processor. You can make a delicious raw chocolate cupcake for one and frost it with whipped cream. Yum!
I keep cinnamon, nutmeg, Adobo, parsley and other seasonings where I can see them and think about what I can add them to. Cinnamon and nutmeg are great in coffee and on cereal. You don't have to bake or make elaborate dinner recipes to use your spice and herb collection. Make the simple everyday foods special!
I have purchased a formerly $300 J. Crew jacket for $12.99 at the Salvation Army. I often find high-end clothing there for a fraction of the cost. Ann Taylor, Burberry, Lily Pulitzer: The clothing is in perfect condition. I only buy slacks and skirts in neutral colors so I can match them with whatever color tops I find that are attractive. I splurged on a $69 Coach purse at an outlet- it is durable and a good investment. The same with shoes. Cheap shoes are a waste. They wear out and ruin your feet in the process.
Pets: I love animals, but when you adopt a pet you have to consider where and how you live not only presently but ten years in the future. I will be buying a condo in a beautiful community within the next three years. My even-tempered and fairly quiet chihuahua and serene tabby cat will do fine there. Living in the country with a big fenced yard was great for my two big dogs who enjoyed a long life here. After they passed away, I realized I should stick with small pets due to my future goal. Some people do quite well with large dogs in the city even, this is personal preference. The point is think about how you like to live and make sure your pets are compatible with your lifestyle before bringing them home.
These are just a few tips that have helped me. I try not to own much stuff or commit to activities I don't enjoy. It makes me appreciate what I have and put time and possessions to better use. Decluttering is an important part of life. It helps to keep focusing on who you are now and what makes you happy and content.
By SusannL from St. Cloud, FL
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These are such good ideas, especially the forethought you have in what kinds of pets to get. In light of your future goals, this is wonderful to see. I had to change the kids diet over the summer because they were trying to eat junk food or expensive boxed type garbage foods.
I made up a menu and buy it once a week. It is the largest meal in the morning, with two eggs each, and applesauce and yogurt one half a piece of bread and butter, and OJ 1/2 a cup or less and Milk at the same amount. I have found it fills them up. Sometimes I will put a waffle on the plate, 1/4 of a waffle with syrup. They get really full.
They like to eat hot dogs which I shiver at, ewww. But when they do, and they usually want those for lunch/dinner, I put a broccoli stalk with cheese, and applesauce and yogurt on the plate with it, and then the two drinks, juice and milk at 1/2 or less a cup per meal. I think it is a little over 1/4 cup. I have to experiment with them, as some get fuller faster than others.
As an interesting side, it has caused me to lose weight, I assume because the portions are controlled and there are more fruits and vegetables. I am kind of getting tired of it, so I am going to try to substitute chicken nuggets for those awful hotdogs.
As a teacher I assume you research your info. Do you actually know what is reguired to be passed as 'cage free eggs or meat?'.
In the U.S. it is only required that the hen spend part of the day outside. They've added the label barn-roaming to more accurately designate hens that are allowed more ground to roam, but not outdoors.
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