This month, partly nudged by a conversation with Wildcranberries, partly by prayer & scripture reading & paying attention to my own anxious thoughts, I came to some clarity about lifestyle changes my husband & I need to make. I have discussed it on the phone with him while he’s away, & he thinks what I’m doing sounds good so far.
[If you’re curious about the scripture passage that helped me, it’s in Mark chapter 8, the account of Jesus telling his disciples to provide food for a huge crowd of more than 5,000 people who had been listening to his teachings. The disciples thought he was crazy, but he said to them: “How much food do you have? Go & see.” They came up with just five loaves of bread & two fishes (another gospel account specifies that these were provided by a young boy who was present), but Jesus gave thanks for this paltry food & there ended up being more than enough for everyone. How much do I have? I needed to go & see. It will be enough to provide for us as we give thanks & seek to be faithful disciples (learners, followers) of Jesus.]
So I have opened a spreadsheet on which I’m working slowly to put together a realistic budget for us. So far, the main item on which we can save appears to be food. Food, of course, is generally the centerpiece of our experiences of conviviality – shared enjoyment & conversation with each other & friends & family. It’s important that cutting back financially not diminish this. I am so bold as to believe that we can eat more frugally but with greater conviviality.
Last night I had a young friend over for supper, & there was still enough left from my cooking the previous weekend (!) to heat up & serve a yummy meal that accompanied our long, happy conversation.
I am doing major cooking on the weekend & then combining/heating/serving these foods throughout the work week. Here are elements of my frugal shopping/cooking:
- using lots of legumes, that is, dried beans/split peas/lentils (Boston-style baked beans, dhal, vegetarian chili, etc.)
- cooking a whole chicken (organic – not skimping on quality), putting the cooked meat in smaller containers & freezing some, then cooking the bones again to enrich the broth, which can be used immediately for soup or frozen for later use
- making a good-sized amount of some delicious vegetable mix (e.g., curried cauliflower/tomato soup, ratatouille, green beans w/mushrooms)
- keeping a mix of mostly in-season fresh fruits & veggies on hand
- cooking a batch of brown rice
- making my own yogurt
- sometimes baking bread (note: you can find a great recipe for 100% whole wheat QUICK bread using molasses & raisins by googling those ingredients)
- next up: making yogurt cheese! here are instructions from a SparkPeople article about yogurt:
Make your own yogurt cheese! This is a great replacement for cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise. Line a large strainer with a paper coffee filter and place it over a large bowl. Add 2 cups of plain yogurt to the lined strainer. Cover and refrigerate for eight or more hours. The liquid will drain into the bowl, leaving the thick yogurt “cheese” you can use in dips, spreads and baked goods.
For a spread, combine yogurt cheese with jam, jelly, or cinnamon and sugar. For a vegetable dip, combine with your favorite cheese, herbs and spices. Substitute yogurt cheese for higher-fat ingredients in baked goods, cheesecake, and pies.
I’ve gotten some tightly sealing containers with non-BPA plastic lids so that I can take combinations of the above foods to work, along with raw carrots & a piece of fruit, for microwave-heated lunches. Then in the evening I can have a different combination for supper.
My husband & I really enjoy eating at an array of ethnic restaurants (Vietnamese, Thai, Ethiopian, Mexican, Colombian, Japanese, etc. etc.), but the idea is to make this rare & special – just once or twice a month.
My husband’s blood pressure is slightly elevated, & he’d like to quit relying on frozen entrees & vegetable mixes from Trader Joe’s; they’re delicious & nutritious but also relatively expensive & salt-laden. So he has a personal reason for endorsing my new regimen. :-)
I’m back to tracking my food at Sparkpeople, & it’s impressive to see how much my fiber intake has increased! Meanwhile calories have decreased & I’m losing weight without feeling hungry between meals/snacks.
How much do you have? Go & see.