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,