Monday, May 10, 2010

Frugal Food

My journey toward simple living includes eating more whole foods, especially a wide variety of organic fruits, veggies and naturally raised animals. This can be a pricey venture, but it need not break the bank. I've come up with 5 changes in routine that will help me afford my new eating habits.

1. Join a CSA. This way I am getting a large variety of fruits and veggies in season and delivered right to my door. I love that the CSA accepts cash, since using cash is an important part of my frugal living strategy. I know for certain that $50 of my $100/wk grocery budget will be spent Thursday at 6pm and this helps me plan the rest of my spending accordingly, centering my meals around the produce.

2. Eat less meat. I simply cannot afford naturally raised meat at every meal. It helps that I quite like many vegetarian options. As for getting enough protein, simply mix a grain with a legume and voila: complete protein. Rice and black beans, hummus with pita, and veggie omelets are a few of my favorite vegetarian options.

3. Buy meat directly from a local producer, in larger quantities. A friend of mine is considering ordering a side of beef directly from a local producer. This sounds intimidating to me, but many people have done so and swear by the system. Personally, I'm not a big fan of beef, so I'm currently researching local lamb, chicken and pork producers. More on this in the future.

4. Cut out convenience foods. It's amazing how quickly the cost of a few snacks like chips, chocolate bars or convenience foods can add up. By omitting convenience foods from my cart, I can spend my hard earned dollars on real foods, without going over budget.

5. Process foods yourself. I used to buy a container of hummus from the supermarket every week. That's a weekly cost of $6. This weekend, I made a huge batch from scratch and froze it in 2 cup containers. My new weekly cost for hummus is $2. Chicken broth is another good option to make yourself. My weekly cost for chicken broth used to be $4. By using a leftover chicken carcass and ends of vegetables, I've reduced this cost to almost $0. Habits like making coffee at home and bringing lunch to work also help quite a bit with reducing food costs. $100 a week on food doesn't go far at a restaurant.

By creating these new habits, I can follow my simple eating philosophy while still living frugally. Are there any habits you would add to this list?

Take Care,

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Journeying Toward the Simple

I've done three things in the past week to contribute to my goal of creating a simpler life. I have:
1. Joined a CSA (Community Shared Agriculture) program.
2. Cleaned out my cedar chest, donating a box of stuff to a local charity.
3. Shopped at a thrift store for the first time.

The CSA I joined is called Fresh Option Organic Delivery. CSAs are a program by which people pay a flat fee to receive a share of locally grown fruits and vegetables on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. I decided to join a CSA for two reasons. First, I want to eat more and a greater variety of in season fruits and vegetables. I was particularly inspired to commit to this change after reading Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food". See my post "Eating Simply" for more. My second reason was to put my money where my mouth is and support local farmers and food suppliers.

I received my first delivery of organic fruits and veggies a couple of days ago. I was very impressed and have eaten well since. I even cooked red chard for the first time ever, making Linguine with Pancetta and Chard. It was wonderful.

As for cleaning out my cedar chest, the experience was quite liberating. I found a few gifts from over 5 years ago that I was holding onto simply because it felt wrong to give them away. A set of body lotions that my sensitive skin would likely react to, an ornate 16 x 20 glass picture frame, and a pile of old pants that don't fit were among the items that are now on their way to finding better homes. My only regret is that it took me over 5 years to get rid of these things. It's amazing what guilt can do to create clutter. I plan to continue this de-cluttering process little by little over the next few weeks.

And finally, I shopped in a thrift store for the first time ever! Well, I bought a costume for my grade 11 school musical at a thrift store, but today was the first time I bought an actual item of non-theater related clothing at such a place. I have my friend J to thank for this adventure. She is a thrift store queen who graciously took me to one of her favorite haunts. I think I'll be back. After all, thrift stores are the ultimate exercise in frugality, so long as one is buying items that he or she actually needs.

Well, this is what my week in simplicity looked like. I am quite pleased and recommend my endeavors to you. In the next week, I wish to continue experimenting with all the lovely fruits and vegetables waiting patiently in the kitchen, de-clutter another corner of the house and begin a daily meditation practice. I'll let you know how it goes.

Take Care,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eating Simply

Vegan or Omnivore?

Organic or Local?

Carbs or Protein?

Fruit or Vegetables?

Dairy or Soy?

So many complex questions surround the question of what to eat. Michael Pollan, author of "In Defense of Food", offers a simple heuristic that I can get behind: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Eat food is not quite as simple as it sounds, since we are surrounded by many products that appear to be food, but are really what Pollan calls "food-like substances." For an item to be deemed "food" it must be a whole or minimally processed food. Energy bars, candy, chips, frozen entrees, luncheon meats, soda, and a host of other items you'd find on supermarket shelves do not fit the bill. So, eating food may be simple, but not necessarily easy.

Next, we have not too much. This is a tough one for me and likely anyone who was raised to "finish your plate!" Food is so plentiful and cheap these days that we really do eat a lot of it. Noticing when you're near full and putting down the fork is the best way to eat just enough. Eating only what we need and leaving the rest is a way of practicing non-greed.

Finally we are implored to eat mostly plants. This sounds reasonable to me. After all, if one is eating only food, the types of meat we can eat are limited to begin with. Pollan encourages readers to eat grass finished, organically raised meats which will contain less non-food substances like antibiotics and hormones. If we purchase these more expensive meats, chances are we will eat less of them. What do we fill up the rest of out plates with? Well mostly plants of course. Leafy greens in particular and then an assortment of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

To follow this eating plan is in keeping with my three tenets of simple living. First, by eating whole foods that I prepare myself I am practicing frugality. By resisting the urge to eat "food-like substances" such as (my weakness) potato chips I am practicing contentment. Finally, by not eating too much I am practicing non-greed.

This plan sounds pretty wise to me. I think I'll try it out. I'll let you know in Friday's Personal Journey Series post how it goes. What do you think of Pollan's plan?

Take Care,


Friday, April 16, 2010

Frugality, Contentment and Non-Greed

I see simple living as intentionally and continuously developing the following three qualities: 1) frugality 2) contentment and 3) non-greed.

  • Frugality is the practice of acquiring goods and services in a restrained manner and resourcefully using what you already have, to achieve a longer term goal.

  • I see contentment as actively being satisfied with where you are, what you have, and who you are.

  • Non-greed is the absence of a selfish or excessive desire for more than is needed or deserved, especially of money, wealth, food, or other possessions.

In a way, I’ve always been drawn to simple living. As a child, playing the game MASH, I remember preferring the possibility of living in a shack to living in a mansion. “Who’s going to clean all of those rooms” I thought. As a teen I loved learning to cook and sew, skills I did not see as being at odds with my growing feminist ideals. I loved the personal satisfaction I felt while pulling a macaroni casserole out of the oven and placing it on the table as my mother returned home from work. When I began dating my current partner, I told him in no uncertain terms not to buy me jewelry and that I didn’t expect fancy dinners (he was 22, I was 20 and we were each living in our own apartments and supporting ourselves on a limited income).

There is of course the other side of this coin- the temptations of our consumer culture to indulge, amass, overspend, want, desire, covet and generally complicate our lives with a whole lot of mental and physical clutter. I have been down this road as well. It’s all too easy to get there.
As children, my sister and I kept a scrapbook filled with cutouts from the Sears catalog of all the toys we wished to possess. We would add new cutouts to the book on a regular basis, while sitting in a room surrounded by boxes upon boxes of toys.

As a teen I coveted physical beauty and aesthetic perfection. Apparently, in order to have a perfect complexion all I had to do was find the perfect face cream. I soon amassed a collection of jars and tubes and bottles, none of which delivered the promised complexion.

Just two years ago my partner and I decided to co-purchase a house with my mother. As my mother is single and we were still in University (and so had no down payment) it sounded like a perfect plan. However, I feel I allowed myself to get “upsold” by a snappy agent and we now live in a 3400 square foot house on a prestigious street with high taxes. We can afford it on paper and don’t get me wrong I love the yard, kitchen and sunroom. Sometimes, however, I feel this house is an albatross around our necks, causing all sorts of psychic anxiety. I truly wish I would have stayed true to my ideals of simplicity and exercised more restraint when purchasing a home.

One can not go back though. One can only learn from past mistakes and move forward. That’s what I plan to do. So, even while living in this house, I commit to living a life of frugality, contentment and non-greed.

Take Care,


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Welcome to Simple Riches

This blog is a place to:

  • explore the nature of simple living

  • ponder how one can be simply rich

  • document my journey toward simple living

  • share wisdom regarding simplicity
To me, simple riches are the stuff of life that make living worthwhile. Through simple living (getting rid of all the excess and nonessential) the riches that each of us hold become apparent and we begin to practice true gratitude toward these riches. I hope you enjoy the posts which will appear according to the following series:

Simple Wisdom Series

Simple Pleasures Series

Frugal Living Series

Personal Journey Series

Simple Beauty Series

I hope dearly that you enjoy this blog and return often.

Take Care,