Posts filed under Living

January Food Budget

I do not want to write this post. It’s embarrassing. I did not even come close to meeting January's food budget goal. It’s like I didn’t even try (spoiler alert: I did not). Added to the stinging pain of failure - or rather admitting failure - is the fact that money is a deeply personal subject. 

I could, technically, not write this post and ignore that I ever mentioned having a food budget. The internet does it all time, no? Many bloggers, perhaps all, have at some point or another conveniently forgotten to post updates on a new project, goal, what have you. I’d be lucky if two people even read this post. 

Then again, the internet never forgets. 

 

I’m stalling here. Can you tell?

So for January we spent $949 in groceries and $427 in restaurants/eating out (no graph because it would make this all too real).

 

What went wrong? 

1) Not paying attention. While I spent a lot of time meal planning, I didn’t plan with prices in mind. I also never tracked any of the spending during the month. Out of sight, out of mind. Until you have to blog. 

2) Whole Foods. We bought the vast majority of our groceries at WF. Trader Joe’s is always cheaper, but it’s also 20 minutes away. Stop n Shop isn’t too far and offers organic produce, but I would still have to buy meat elsewhere. Ideally I would buy meat at the Farmers Market, but last time I did I spent $30 on bacon. Good bacon, but com’on. Needless to say, I let convenience drive all the decisions. 

The good - and there was some!

1) A lot less eating out. We actually spent $246 on meals out together (across five occasions). I used to eat out at least three times a week. The discrepancy is J spending here and there on little things.  Clearly we’re in this debauchery together, though struggling with different things.  

2) Continued commitment to do better. That’s gotta worth something … 

 

Posted on February 2, 2015 and filed under In My Kitchen, Living.

MINIMALISM TAG

What drew you to minimalism?

My interest in minimalism grew out of my foray into “healthy living.” As I learned more about habits for a healthy body and mind it was only time before I stumbled upon minimalism. It didn’t hurt that in addition to the concept of owning less, I also love the aesthetic of minimalism.

How did you start the de-cluttering process?

I started in late 2012 with a complete overhaul of my closet. I owned so many clothes. Some things fit, many didn’t, and often didn’t actually know what I owned.  Getting ready, laundry, just dealing with my clothes was stressful, so over the course of a couple of days I sorted through hundreds of items. I discarded the old, donated the good, and consigned the rest. The process was surprisingly emotional but I don’t regret getting rid of over 200 items. In fact, it set off a whole chain of decluttering - beauty items, my digital life, books, bathroom and kitchen items. If I could sort and reduce, I did. I still do. It’s always a work in progress.

Have you ever counted all your things? If so, how many things do you own?

I have not. But I also don’t think that minimalism is about owning a specific amount of things. It’s much too personal for that. And while I am motivated by numbers, I’ve never found reducing minimalism to a number to be particularly helpful or inspiring. I consider it minimalist success when there is a sense of effortlessness, peace, and lightness – whether that’s achieved with 5 or 100 items.

What are your tips for dealing with the desire for more?

This is something I still struggle with.  I found that it helps if I delay the purchase. I’m an impulse buyer so giving myself some time (a few days at least and up to a few months) to mull over the purchase helps me realize that I don’t want or need it. Getting rid of the temptation in the first place by unsubscribing to emails or “junk” blogs also helps. I still feel a sense of “missing out” and find some of these things creeping back into my inboxes, which is why minimalism is never an end put a process for me. I’ve also reduced or eliminated magazines (all ads) and don’t watch “regular” tv or cable (more ads).

How do you deal with non-minimalists in your life?

I’ve never had to “deal” with non-minimalists. I’m happy to talk about why I do what I do if people are interested or if someone asks for advice. Otherwise it’s not my place to judge. J I think finds it amusing. He already doesn’t own a lot of things so no tension there. I also think he is happy to reap the benefits of a (more) clutter-free home.

Do you have any guilty pleasures where minimalism doesn't apply?

Food. Admittedly, our pantry is stuffed. Organized but definitely very full. I love to cook so have ended up with one of every ingredient it seems. I love specialty items and gourmet foods as well, which has translated to eight kinds of rice, six kinds of flours, and ten kinds of oils, etc. While I wouldn’t quite “de-clutter” my pantry I am trying to be more thoughtful about what I buy and actually using up what I have.

 

Posted on January 3, 2015 and filed under Living.

December Food Budget

After the obscenity that was October food spending, J and I decided that we had to rein it in before things got really out of control. We decided this sometime in mid-November, admittedly a little late on reviewing our budgets, hence the December focus. 

We set a goal to spend a total of $700 on all food, which isn't at all unreasonable for two people. Unfortunately, we didn't quite make it. 

We were over by about 50%, so it's probably more accurate to say we didn't make it at all. Though it was a vast improvement from past months (including October 2014), we can definitely do better. Side note, I'm starting to see a pattern here with my last few posts and not meeting the goals I set.  I don't like it. 

Our Achilles' heel is eating out. We definitely use it as a crutch. Don't know what to eat? Let's Foodler! Feeling lazy? Ramen! Scratch that. I hate to suggest that ramen isn't always a good option, so let's go with Italian! 

The lack of planning did us in. The first few weeks were packed with meal planning, home cooked meals, and batch cooking. It was glorious. Then we got back from a week of travel and reverted back to our old ways. 

So now that I've identified the somewhat obvious problem, January will be glorious(ly within budget). January budget is increased slightly to $850 to account for a birthday meal. Is that cheating? Or is it just being realistic? 

Posted on December 30, 2014 and filed under In My Kitchen, Living.

How to Save $250+ On Cyber Monday

The secret? Don’t buy anything.

 

That seems obvious, but when you love shopping a little too much, and the rush of a deal even more, not buying anything during Cyber Monday is near impossible.

I wish I could say that I abstained from a shopping frenzy because I was thoughtful about my actions. Instead it was a series of (fortunate) unfortunate events.

I made it through Black Friday buying only the things I had on my wish list. My goal was controlling and curbing unnecessary shopping. If an item - researched, priced checked, and assessed as a need - stayed on the list for at least a couple of months, I would consider purchasing it. If I was ultimately going to buy something, why not get a deal?

My working wish list was my attempt to ensure I didn’t go crazy accumulating things I didn’t need and ultimately didn’t really want - a mistake I’ve made repeatedly in the past. However, by the time Cyber Mondayrolled around, several items and companies had made their way onto my list, ready to be scoped out and scooped up.

 

Reflecting back, it’s like a junkie wanting one more hit. Or perhaps more like a Lay’s potato chips binge. You can never just have one, right?

 

So Monday came, emails started pouring in with deals, I started googling for specific deals, and soon enough I had a set of beautifully curated tabs with intended purchases. Holding on to the tiniest shred of thoughtfulness, I figured I would reconsider each one carefully to make sure I really “needed” it. Rationalization at its best since I knew full well I didn’t need a single thing.

Then I noticed that one website wasn’t honoring the free shipping offer. By the time they had the decency to post a limp reply to Facebook messages letting customers know no more free shipping (after deleting and ignoring comments), I was done (with them). The experience was soured.

Then I noticed a major online beauty company I had purchased an expensive product from on Black Fridaywas offering an even better Cyber Monday deal on the same product. After spending an hour on the phone when I should’ve been eating dinner, to figure out if I could get a refund, I was done. Every single time I called, the call would drop after several minutes on hold. Finally, I got some canned email response that basically said, “Tough". I get that promotions come and go, but offering a better deal later on during the same weekend, especially when that weekend is known for sales seems like outright duping customers.  The experienced was soured.

My energies then turned to research. Site A has 25% off, but not free shipping unless I buy more items. Site B has 30% off, and free shipping, but only on some of the items I wanted from Site A. Should I buy more to save? Is it really saving? What if I buy some items from Site B and find the others on Site C, which has 10% off? I thought that shopping this weekend for long sought after items would be fun, and yet the whole experience was making me anxious and stressed.  I became too preoccupied with the “deal”. I realized it was never about the product, it was about buying.

 

Defeated, I resolved to buy the one item that was worth it, that I use every day, and that never goes on sale. But by the time I switched to my last tab, it was sold out.

At the end of it all, I was a little angry. Okay, maybe a lot angry. But I’m trying to go back to the sense of peace I first discovered after decluttering my life. Things only provide temporary and very fleeting happiness, if you can call it happiness at all. After checking off a couple of major wishes from the list, I want to take a step back and do a no spend month. In some ways Black Friday was my last hurrah, the chocolate cake before the diet, but you gotta start somewhere…

 

Posted on December 1, 2014 and filed under Living.