Frugally Food

Small Changes Add Up

Sep
27

One of the best ways to improve your life is to take tasks that have to be done anyway and make them a source of fun and learning.  This can work in many aspects of your life (with the possible exception of cleaning – nothing can make cleaning fun).

No what I am talking about is cooking.  Everyone needs to eat.  Heck we do it three times a day.  So it is a major task.  And if you look at it like a task, it will become an odious chore.  But if you look at it as a way to try new recipes, experiment with new flavours, stimulate all your taste buds, it becomes a wonderful source of fun and learning.

Most people get into the rut of eating the same five meals over and over again until it just becomes too tedious.  But small incremental changes will make huge improvements in the quality of life.

For instance, people eat fried eggs.  All well and good. Very functional.  But with just a little more effort you could make scrambled eggs.  A tiny step above that and you could add some salsa to the plate with your scrambled eggs.  A little more effort and you could be enjoying a lovely cheese omelette.  Next thing you know you could be cooking up a veggie and cheese omelette with some basil on top.  Oh my can croissant be far behind?

Small incremental improvements such as this can be applied to all aspects of your daily meals.  Suddenly eating is a lot more flavourful and a lot more fun.  And the good news is that all of this can be accomplished for a lot less money than eating out.  Not only are you saving money on food, you’re saving money on gas driving to and through restaurants.

So give it a try and see what small changes you can make.

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Simply Better

Sep
22

Every time a discussion of simplicity or minimalism comes up  there always seems to be a segment of society that is shocked and appalled that someone would voluntarily choose to live with less stuff.  Simplicity and minimalism means different things to different people but a theme common to all is the wish to create the best life they can with the least amount of drain on the earth’s resources.

For me I was sick of the relentless neverending societal “encouragement” to acquire stuff and whenever I did get this stuff that was supposed to make me happy – big surprise – it never did.  Adopting a more minimalist lifestyle and living simply however does make me happier and has improved my life in so many ways:

Now I have a lot more TIME.  I don’t need to go to the mall because I have all the clothes I need to be warm and fashionable.  Since they are good quality and I take care of them they probably won’t be wearing out anytime soon so I can spend my time on things that are more important.

Now I have a lot more ENERGY.  Before I always had a million things on my to do list running the gamut from acquiring stuff to maintaining stuff to getting other people to maintain my stuff.  Now I have less stuff and I take care of it myself.

Now I have a lot less STRESS.  Before I was always anxious and worried because the stuff I had wasn’t as new or as flashy as the stuff that other people had.  Now I just have the things I need to make my life work efficiently and I don’t care if it’s five years old or twenty years old.  These days often the older it is, the better quality it is.

So now because of simplicity and minimalism I can concentrate on the things that really matter like eating healthy and exercising and achieving my goals and artistic pursuits.  You know LIFE.  Real life.

There are many other people embracing simplicity and minimalism.  One of them is Courtney Carver over at the blog Be More with Less.  I asked her the number one way that simplicity has improved her life.  She said, “Simplicity has provided so many benefits, but the most important is that it has
allowed me to eliminate so much stress in my life. Without debt and clutter, I
am much healthier and happier. ”

If you want to learn more about simplicity Courtney’s blog Be More with Less is full of inspirational articles and practical advice on how to get started down the road to being simply better.

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Advantages of the Avocado

Sep
20

In the continuing series of foods that are good for a person, this post will talk about the benefits of eating avocados.  And since it is still summer (okay I’m in a bit of denial over that one) at least there are still some deals to be had with avocados.  As is often the case, it is cheaper to buy in bulk when it comes to avocados instead of buying them individually.   Thankfully avocados are so versatile that they can be eaten every single day…guacamole one day, smoothie the next…another great way is to just cut the avocado in half, yank out the pit and just starting eating the avocado right out of the peel.  It makes a wonderful snack.

And now, from some reading that I’ve done, I find that avocados are also really good for a person.  I always knew that they were rich in omega-3 which is a good thing.  But I also discovered that they act as a “nutrient booster”, essentially increasing the body’s ability to absorb and make use of various nutrients.

However I think the reason some people don’t want to eat avocados is they perceive them as being fattening.   So here are some calorie comparisons so you can see for yourself.

Avocado  190 calories per 100 g

Banana   95 calories per 100 g

White Bread   280 calories per 100 g

If you want more information about the avocado or many other foods that are good for a person, I read all about it in “Improve your Mood with Food” by Alexandra Massey.

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Summer Fruit

Sep
16

Tis the season for getting lots of seasonal fruit on sale.  The other day I got a huge container of strawberries for half price.  This is all well and good so long as you are able to make great use of them.  There is the jam route that many people take but I don’t have the time or energy to make jam considering how rarely I use the finished product.

So instead I wanted to freeze the strawberries so that I could use them in smoothies for weeks to come.  Nothing could be easier than freezing strawberries.  All you do is:

  1. Wash and dry the berries
  2. Core the berries
  3. Place them on a cookie sheet so that they aren’t touching each other
  4. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer and let the berries freeze solid (only takes a few hours)
  5. Transfer them to an air tight container

And voila you have lovely summer fruit for your smoothies.  As the seasons change you can still enjoy the taste of summer for a fraction of the cost.  And here is a recipe to help you do that:

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

1 frozen banana

3 or 4 frozen strawberries

1 cup vanilla almond milk (no sugar added)

Take the frozen banana from the freezer and put it in the microwave for one minute.  Doing this will make it much easier to get the peel off of the banana while still keeping the banana itself still pretty cold.  Add the banana, strawberries and milk to a blender.  Blend on high.  Enjoy!

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Decluttering: The Great Motivator

Sep
10

A great side effect of the whole decluttering process is in addition to all the time and money you will save, you will also be motivated to DO more.

For example early on in the process of decluttering my stuff I decided to whittle down my jewellery making supplies.  So I got rid of all the beads and findings that no longer interested me and sent them to the thrift store.  It was a very satisfying project because what started out scattered around the room in three different containers and locations was now all brought together into one small container.

Before if I wanted to make jewellery it would take 15 minutes of gathering supplies from this drawer and that closet.  After decluttering it takes one minute to get started.  The container is here, pop opens the lid and I can begin.

A great time saver.  And also a great motivator to do more things. Before it would take 15 minutes to start making jewellery but that was AFTER I spent half an hour telling myself why the 15 minutes were worth the effort.  I would think no, it’s easier to read and another part of my brain would say no, it will be fun to make jewellery.  The battle would rage for half an hour.  More often than not I would just read.

With the new decluttered arrangement there is no internal debate.  I get an idea for some jewellery, I pull down the container and start.

Very simple.  No stress.

This works so well that I have applied it to many other areas.  For example now I have a ‘baking station’ – a large container that holds all the dry ingredients I need to bake my favourite things.  I just pull out the baking station and pull the wet ingredients from the fridge and voila – homemade baking in no time!

Try it for yourself and see if it motivates you to DO more.

 

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Throwaway World

Sep
04

Previous eras saw the Industrial Age and the Information Age.  If there was a word to describe the era we are living in right now I think that word might be disposable.  The world is becoming more and more a throwaway society.  From individual coffee packs to individual flossing picks, everything is becoming individualized and tossable.

As I discovered when writing a previous post, 30% of household food is just thrown out, resulting in huge wastes of energy.  Don’t know how much energy goes into growing your food?  Well just try to keep a basil plant alive and you’ll come to appreciate the skill and time and energy involved.  The soil has to be just right as well as the right amount of sunlight and the right amount of water.  How much fertilizer to add and if so, when.  There are so many factors that go into growing food and that’s just one plant!   If you try and grow something else it will require a whole new set of requirements.

Same thing with clothing.  People buy clothes and toss them out without a moment’s thought these days.  But if you’ve ever had to make clothes with your bare hands you would be less inclined to do so.  The skill that is required to make clothes starts even before you make the first cut into the fabric.  If you don’t cut the fabric the right way, a skirt that is supposed to ripple and sway with every step will instead just hang there like a dead mackerel.  The skill of an excellent seamstress can make a person look like a million bucks.

You all know what I’m talking about.  We’ve all worn clothes that fit perfectly and made us look and feel terrific.  What you need is a handful of items that make you look terrific instead of a closet crammed full of stuff that makes some supermodel somewhere look terrific.

It all starts with you.  Use up the food you buy.  Use the clothes you buy and don’t buy more than you need.  Use the money you save to create a better life for yourself and the world around you.

Feeding the Landfill

Sep
02

I read a rather unpleasant statistic the other day.  It said that 30% of household food is thrown in the garbage.  Not only is this a huge waste of money for the person doing the throwing, it is a huge waste of embodied energy considering that most anything you get in a grocery store these days is more well travelled than the average human being.

Vast amounts of energy are spent growing the food in the first place then more is spent processing it and packaging it then more is spent shipping it across the continent or around the globe.  Even more energy is spent advertising it to convince you to buy it in the first place.  All so that it can be thrown away where even more energy is spent transporting it to designated spots on the earth where it is allowed to fester and rot creating harmful by products.

Obviously the way to plug this gigantic chasm of wasted energy (and save yourself a lot of money at the same time) is to be diligent about eating all the food you bring into your house.  Since some people can’t think of what to do with leftovers, I’ll help you out.  If the same three vegetables have been staring back at you from the fridge for awhile now, it’s time to make some homemade soup.  Just chop up the veggies, add some canned tomatoes and some herbs, simmer till everything is cooked.  Enjoy!

Bread is another thing that should never be thrown out (unless it’s gone moldy).  If the bread has reached the rock hard stage then get out the grater and grate into bread crumbs.  Keep in an air tight container and it can be added at any future date to meatloafs or hamburgers or croquettes).

However if the bread can still be cut up then it’s time for one of the best things in life: Bread pudding!  And I have a recipe that is very quick and easy.

Microwave Bread Pudding

2 Tbsps butter or margarine, melted

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp salt

2 cups bread cubes

Mix the wet ingredients together.  Add to the bread and make sure all the bread is completely soaked.  Let stand for five minutes or so.  Microwave for 5-6 minutes.  (The pudding will start to come away from the sides of the bowl when it is done).  Enjoy!

PS. I also have other ideas for using up leftovers with this article I did a few weeks ago.

 

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Frugally Fun Entertainment

Aug
30

Time for another post on frugally fun.  With the school year starting up again, this is the perfect time to sign up for some low-cost or no-cost social activities.

If you like live theatre (and who doesn’t) then you can sign up to usher at plays.  The theatre season is just starting up and help is often needed.  All that is required to be an usher is show up early, take tickets or hand out programs or run the coat check and in return you get to see the play for free.  I’ve seen many wonderful plays that would have cost forty dollars or more.  Sometimes I’m even in the second row!

If the play is not the thing (sorry Shakespeare) then there are often folk music clubs around that need help.  What better way to hear some amazing music?

Of course keep in mind that you are there to help out.  So help out!  You’ll get a sense of accomplishment with the added bonus of an enjoyable evening.

If you don’t want to commit to a whole season then look for some short term volunteer opportunities like the fringe festival (more theatre) or folk festivals or film festivals.

There are probably volunteer opportunities in the area of sports too.  All that is required is some research and asking some questions.

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Hidden Sugar

Aug
17

By now everyone has heard the news that sugar isn’t good for you.  From obesity to diabetes to many other health issues, sugar plays a big role.  So it is worth the effort to get sugar out of your life.

Some sources of sugar are obvious.  Soda pop for example is loaded with sugar.  However if you thought that switching over to fruit juice would be a way to reduce sugar you would be wrong.

After a quick trip to the grocery store to read some labels I found that soda pop has 30g of sugar per 250mL!!  That is 30g of sugar in one cup of pop!  A teaspoon of white sugar is 4g.   So there are 7.5 teaspoons of sugar in one cup of liquid!  That is unbelievable.

Walking over to the juice aisle revealed that fruit juice has 26g per 250mL!  Almost the same amount of sugar!

So the healthiest drink you can have (and the least expensive I might add) is water.  Plain water.  Don’t add “flavour” packs or buy it with vitamins added (I checked the label on those too and sugar is the second ingredient!)  Just have water.  Plain and simple.

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Frugal Fun

Aug
14

I think I’ve invented a brand new job category.  There seems to be a need for, of all things, a recreation consultant.  I found a lot of the guys I used to work with would not have a freaking clue what to do with themselves on weekends.  This takes workaholism to a whole new level.  And these are guys who would bitch and complain about their jobs constantly and yet not have a single notion of what to do in their down time.  It is beyond tragic that the only thing these guys had to look forward to was a job they freaking hated.

I distinctly remember a conversation I had with one of them.  We were talking about the weather and we were commenting on all the snow we were getting lately.  So next topic was the weekend.  And this guy started complaining about how he never had anything to do on the weekend.  So I (in my new role as recreation consultant) asked, “Don’t you like to ski?”

Well his face lit up and it was exactly as if a giant light bulb had come on over his head.

“Hey!  Yeah!” he said to me, all in awe, “I could go skiing!”

Now you would think that an engineer in a lead role in a big company would have been able to think that up himself, especially since we had been talking about snow not two minutes earlier!

I thought he was an isolated case but in the week or so after that conversation two or three other coworkers also expressed not having anything to do on the weekend.  WT…?!  So in aid of these unfortunate souls I’ve decided to occasionally write about Frugal Fun.  These articles will consist of no-cost or low-cost ways to have fun and enjoy your life.  So here goes:

Frugal Fun #1:  The Library

If you haven’t been to the library in years and can only remember dusty old books and damp dark corners, are you in for a surprise.  Libraries these days are usually some of the nicest looking buildings in town.  So not only do you have lovely, peaceful settings to read or write or surf the net (to read Frugally Food of course!) there are also a whole heck of a lot more things you can borrow from the library than there used to be.  Books, CDs, DVDs, some even have small tool libraries.  Libraries often offer programs on a wide range of topics, I’ve even seen some that offered an evening of wine and cheese complete with displays of local artwork and readings from local authors.  If you can’t make it to the library, you can still rent a book because most have ebook catalogues at your service.  So, no excuses, get out there and have some frugal fun!

 

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