My coffee shop afternoon

Today, for the first time in about a month, I spent the afternoon in a coffee shop. I am working on my grad school applications, and so my ‘about me’ letter is a big part of those. What I have accomplished thus far is a first draft (and not very good at all) but it was a productive way to spend a gloomy and rainy day.

It has been cool and rainy for the past several days, and I had cabin fever in the worst way from when I woke up this morning. I knew that I couldn’t spend the day inside my apartment. I had to get out. Although I love to sit and read a book, today that would have made me absolutely crazy. I am not much of a movie person, and especially since it was dark and gloomy outside I didn’t feel excited about going and sitting in a dark theater for the afternoon. I have no need to go shopping (unfortunately one of my favorite pastimes) for anything at all; I just went to the grocery store last night. Going for a drive around town or to explore my new-ish neighborhood was not an option with the weather.

Spending my afternoon this way has been especially enjoying. I accomplished what I wanted to (for the most part) and I saw a lot of other people out and about, which I think was exactly what I was craving.

I used to frequent coffee shops often- more than once or twice a week, and I appreciate the concept of making them a special treat now more than ever. The coffee was just adequate because I have become an expert at making my own just to my specifications. Although my four dollar cup of coffee was much more expensive and not quite as good as what I make at home, those three dollars were more for the enjoyable afternoon and the atmosphere than for the coffee itself. Every month or so, I’ll gladly spend a few dollars on an afternoon such as this, especially when the weather turns really bad and there aren’t as many outdoor options easily available.

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August 30, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Update on my food budget

So lots of people told me that $20- 25/week (for one person) is not enough for food. And if it is, then that person is eating mostly Ramen noodles.

Well, after living with that much money allotted for groceries each week for over a month, I can say that, although it can be difficult, it is possible to eat on that amount. Since moving out here, I have eaten out exactly once-and was treated to dinner that time, which is a major reason why I have been able to eat for so little.

And I have not been surviving off of Ramen. I did make some mistakes early on though. I ate far too much bread and pasta. Before I had a chance to stock my kitchen with some very basic cooking supplies, I was eating peanut butter and bread for both breakfast and lunch, and then pasta and veggies at night. My poor little belly was not doing very well.

I have not made any major changes to the way that I eat, although I have totally cut out soda. Seltzer water mixed with shelf juices (cranberry and apple are my favorites) has become my replacement for when I want something fizzy and sweet. I have changed the way that I shop, though. I go to grocery stores at night and get most of my bread and some other random items I find from the discount shelf in the back. I used to NEVER darken the door of anything other than a major chain grocery store or a local grocer/market/farmer’s market. I have started going to discount stores and getting some staples there. Just tonight I bought shelf juice for $1 for 64oz (Minute Maid brand), cooking oil for $2, salsa for $1, and a few other things. I will use all of these things and saved several dollars in buying them there. I’m still a bit skeptical though, and stick to name brands that I recognize and would buy elsewhere. I buy rice and potatoes in bulk, and eat them often. Luckily farmers markets are still going strong, and I have easy access to great produce that’s especially fresh and locally grown.

I have also changed the way that I cook, to some extent. I generally make lots of rice and beans on Sunday. Those last me pretty much through the week – I can have so many options simply by adding a few extra ingredients – rice and beans soups, burrito bowls, cold salads, bean burgers, etc. This also saves me time on the weeknights, when all I want to do is come home from work and eat something quickly. It has also stifled my creativity some. I am eating the same things more often and have less room for experimenting with new recipes. To be honest, I don’t know if that’s something I’ll be able to stand for the long-term.

Eating seasonally also makes a big difference in one’s food expenses. Unfortunately I do not live in an especially temperate climate, so we have a rather short growing season. Many things cannot grow here, although potatoes, apples, corn, pears, lettuces, squash, and tomatoes grow quite well. I’ve had lots of corn as of late because it has just come in and was very inexpensive. In just a few weeks it will be the same with apples. In the winter, there will be less fruit and more root vegetables like squash. It makes sense though; fruit salads are much less tempting when you can see your breath in the outside air. Delicious and heartwarming stews become much more tempting during the frigid months.

I plan to continue eating on this rather stringent budget for at least another month. I need to do more experimenting and tweaking around with how I shop and eat. I will most likely have an occasional splurge (tonight it was anise cookies) but I am dedicating to seeing whether or not this experiment is possible long-term.

August 29, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Use things up!

Many people who advocate for frugality will stress the importance of taking good care of your major purchases (homes, cars, electronics, etc.) so that they will last longer and remain in better working condition for longer.

I think there is another aspect to this piece of frugality. Use disposable things up! I cannot tell you how many times a roommate of mine would buy new shampoo or deodorant because she was ‘tired of her old one’. Because they never felt in the mood to return to those cast off toiletries, I also cannot tell you how many bottles were thrown away as we moved out of the apartment.

Not only is this incredibly wasteful and environmentally un-friendly, but it is also an expensive habit over time. If you’re someone who needs to change things up often, then rotate between a few shampoos or toothpastes or whatever, and when each one finishes, replace it with a new and different one. It’s that simple. Boredom is a terrible reason to be wasteful.

August 9, 2009. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.