Bulk Buying and Cooking for Singles

There are some great sites out there lauding once a month cooking which usually involves large casseroles, piles of waffles and pancakes and a quantity of food that is staggering to me.

And yet I have a Costco membership I use frequently, buy in bulk packages at the co-op and often have enough food in my freezers and pantry to eat for a month or more without shopping.  It’s a fine balance between getting the best price for food (usually in bulk) and not throwing money out by dumping spoiled food in the trash.

Here are some of my tricks.

Snacks

I make granola in huge portions and keep it fresh in a glass jar to top yogurt or to mix in with cereal. Rolled oats, raw sunflower seeds, raisins and cinnamon.

Costco sells a 5 pound bag of organic carrots for just a few dollars. I divide the bag up into 12 small bags of carrots for snacks

Great for eating raw or dipped in hummus.  Other vegetables good with hummus include peppers, cucumbers and broccoli.

My co-op sells peppers in bulk bags of 2-3 pounds for under $2/pound. These red peppers were under $1 a pound in the half price bin.  I like peppers fresh in a variety of dishes but they are a bit of a pain to wash, prep, slice and keep these from going bad. So when I buy in bulk I take the time to pre-slice and chop to freeze in smaller portions. Some are sliced for fajitas and burritos,

and smaller pieces are great for stuffed zucchini boats and scrambled eggs.  Since my freezers are full it’s tough to make room for flash freezing peppers. Ice cube trays are great for this,

Side Dishes

Typically I buy just one or two bags of dry sides (rice, pasta and lentils) at a time. I use glass jars from Ikea to store these sides and it’s simple enough to pour a half cup or more.

A bulk bag of broccoli is incredibly cheap at the co-op – less than one bag of steam fresh from the grocery store.

This was about a fourth of the broccoli I bought and couldn’t eat before it goes bad. So after steaming I let the broccoli cool and bagged it in smaller portions.

The chicken cutlets I picked up this summer ( 8 – 2.5 lb bags) is still in the freezer. It’s super easy to pull out one or two pieces, defrost and and add to the George Foreman grill.  In the coming month I may buy a bulk container of ground beef at Costco to brown and divide into smaller pieces.

Fruit

Summer is gone. Sigh.

But during those fruit filled months I stocked up on a variety of fruits including cherries, bananas, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, pineapples and blueberries. Flash frozen and then in small containers, it’s easy to use these in small portions for smoothies year round.

Remember these fruity summer drinks? One of the most complicated parts is adding a cup of lemon juice (fresh is best). So I take the lemons I get in bulk from my Grandma’s tree or direct from the farm and freeze them in ice cube trays.

Just a few tricks I use to save money on a few items I use over and over all year long.  I stagger these purchases to keep my grocery budget from getting out of control but in the long run it’s a simple way to make the most of low prices despite the fact I never make casseroles or pounds of pancakes.

My Weekend in Pictures

October hasn’t been a great month for weekends. The first weekend I did the Memory Walk for Alzheimer’s to honor my Grandma on what would have been her 81st birthday. The second weekend I spent in the hospital with my Grandpa. And the third weekend I spent with Grandma, my parents and uncle after Grandpa passed away.

It was all time I was glad I spent but not the most conducive to relaxation or productivity.

So last weekend I got out of town and went to the Farmer’s Market, visited a friend food carting, did some shopping and enjoyed some wine with friends.

This coming weekend I am working around my house, attending a Halloween party and resting.

Everything Changes

Last night I went for a drive, the fields were being harvested in the dark of night, the stars were visible in the darkness and it was quiet.

Really quiet.

It also happened to be my birthday. Yay me.

I went back to the same little 110 year old chapel that I inevitably find, no matter what path I take.

It’s beautiful at night here and instead of little blue insects I found frogs. Despite the occasional ribbit, it was quiet. Calm. Peaceful. The air was cool in that early-Fall way. So I sat here for awhile, thinking. Thinking about the last year and my quarter life crises, the months that followed and the year ahead. Frankly this last year was one of the most productive of my short life. Personally, professionally, financially, I hit a lot of my goals. Which leaves me questioning where I go from here.

Everything changes and as we cycle comfort different aspects of our lives change. We can imagine and anticipate what life will be like, what changes will come and how we’ll respond. But it’s a little like that perfect comeback. You know, the snappy answer we think of when faced with a bully that we can never quite say just right in the moment. Sometimes the perfect comeback comes hours later and we say “I should have said…”

No matter what we prepare, how we think things will happen it’s never true. Everything changes. Even in a 12 hour period you go from this:

to this:

How much more changes in the course of a month? A year? A lifetime?

Last year at this time I was struggling with the first October without my dear Grandma. October is a big birthday month in my family and Grandma would have been 80 years old. We used to celebrate with one cake with 12 names and have a big family party. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Kelly only birthday party (which is most of the reason why I get uncomfortable when the focus is just on me). And celebrating without my Grandma seemed… wrong. It wasn’t wrong it was just the first time in a quarter century I’d ever done so.

This year is a different challenge, no easier to face. My Grandpa was told 8 days ago that he would die. Within an hour. I stood by his bed in the ICU, holding his hand and crying as his body bled and the doctors could not do a thing.  I mean, he’s 90 years old. He’s had a great, full life of love and joy and family.

We got a “hail mary” pass. Moved him to another hospital. Met with a surgical team. They stopped the bleeding. Then he bled again and they stopped it 3 more times. My dad rushed home from his vacation on the east coast. My uncle and aunt flew in from the southwest. We gathered around his bed, we watched the vital signs and we prayed for his ‘fighting chance’ to take hold.

Yesterday we had a sliver of hope.

Today they’re disconnecting him from support – the nutrition, the blood products, the oxygen.

He will die.

See how everything changes. In 12 hours. In 12 days. In 12 months.

November, 19 days away

Along with my hatred of hearing the Monday-Friday speech* I also tire of “oh my gosh it’s [insert month] already!”

We get it. Time passes. Seems too fast.

Get over it.

For the most part I don’t get too excited about a new month unless I happen to be going on vacation… But November is special. Even more special than my birthday which I typically do not celebrate.**

 

November is NaNoWriMo.

For those of you not in the ‘mo, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month where crazy people the world over attempt to pen 50,000 words between 12:01am November 1st and 11:59pm November 30th.

Why?

Because it’s fun.

Because everyone has something to say.

Because without a deadline those story ideas are shelved for ‘someday when…’ everything in our lives is perfect and birds braid our hair in the morning.

Writing a novel is challenging, dirty and, yes, fun work.  NaNoWriMo celebrates that.

If you’ve ever thought “I’m hilarious, I should write a book” or been told “you’re disturbed. You should write a book!” then join  the Scooby gang, grab your monkey badge and join the ranks on www.nanowrimo.org

My region has impromptu parties, a Halloween kick-off celebration and even regional wars. Like a game of Risk fought only in written words, we have taken on (and taken down) then entire country of Finland for several years running. It’s rewarding. It’s bloodless battling.

In addition to challenging yourself mentally, you may find yourself giving your fingers a pep talk (YOU can do it, only 1,000 more words tonight!), meeting new and wonderful people I call Novem-friends and walking into December and all those holiday parties with the badge “novel writer” pinned to your jacket. They give out stickers and web badges and everything!

*The Monday-Friday speech goes like this: “I have a case of the Mondays…” “Tuesday [sigh] at least it’s not Monday!” “Wednesday: hump day!” “Thursday, one more day. Just. One. More. Day.” “TGIF! TGIF! TGIF!” and if you work in an office you know these speeches well. They’re annoying and a sign that people are living for the weekend and will return with a sigh and “I have a case of the Mondays…”

**For those who pay attention to calendars my birthday is this week.  I don’t really celebrate. Not a religious thing, just my preference. Thanks to some awesome peoples in my life I will likely work, play some games on the Wii and watch Saved by the Bell on DVD. That’s pretty much the sum of an awesome birthday to me.

Grandpa update: still in the ICU but stabilizing, he had 4 procedures to stop the bleeding ulcers since Thursday and over 30 units of blood and blood products. He is still very ill and we’re keeping pretty close to the hospital as much as possible.

On Family

I definitely have not spent any time reducing the amount of clutter around my house recently. Wednesday night I was called about my grandfather who was ill in the hospital. I am still at the hospital.

This is one of those times I am so grateful to have an emergency fund so I can

*refill my gas tank daily without worry

*buy lunch on the run without stress

And I’m grateful that I work independently and remotely so I can

*communicate with a small team as to my availability

*check email from my phone at the hospital on occasion

*use free wifi at the cafe to catch up on work

It’s freedom that I haven’t always enjoyed.

Thursday morning, shortly after the doctors said my Grandpa had an hour to live, I was there in the ICU holding his hand and talking. Grandpa leaned in and said “go to work.” Because that’s the kind of man he is, he is always thinking of others. And to him, if I wasn’t at work on a Thursday morning, I was putting myself in a precarious situation.

I am grateful that is not the case. If it were I would still be here, holding his hand, supporting my Grandma and praying that he recovers. But I would be a lot more stressed and worried.

So if you’re considering going out this weekend and having a lot of fun, or just spending money you don’t need to spend, consider putting some of that in your emergency fund. I hope you never leave your home at 10pm, driving 80 mph and praying you arrive in time. But if you do I hope the last worry on your mind is the costs associated with such a trip.

My *dog* owns 100 things

This is a post about minimalism. I believe, as many of you have commented on my organizing posts in the past, it is a topic of interest.

At least it is for me.

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I’ve mentioned before how to set up a RSS feed so instead of bookmarking blogs that look interesting in the hopes you’ll go back to them for new posts, the new content is delivered to you. Presumably by little internet squirrels. Several of the blogs I read on a regular basis have a distinct minimalist mindset.  So much has this infiltrated my thinking that I’ve unsubscribed a few of those non-essential minimalist blogs on my reader in an effort to minimize what I read on a daily basis.

For example, I’ve stopped reading the lovely Tiny House Blog because I’m not building a Tiny House. Although their sister site Tiny House Landscapes is adorable and gave me one of my favorite dream escapes: I want to work here.

One of the blogs I kept was Everett Bogue’s Far Beyond the Stars. Everett is the epitome of location independent as he owns less than 100 possessions, no property or a car. He lives very, very simply and encourages his readers to do the same.

I own far more than 100 things. Hell, I probably own 100 highlighters because I’m only halfway through the 12-Steps Office Supply Addiction Program.

So if we live different lives and disagree strongly about certain things, why do I read Everett’s blog?

I appreciate people who challenge my status quo.

I’ve been called… argumentative at times, which is absolutely a product of speech & debate in college. I don’t mind being the devil’s advocate in the short term as I’ve learned it teaches me even more than defending my own belief. I’m not afraid of an in depth, respectful, fun conversation about the interesting things in life. Which is to say I’m not going to debate Jersey Shore, Paris Hilton or other “interests” which I judge as unworthy of my time and attention.

Today I bought an ebook. Actually, 17 ebooks.

A group of highly qualified, compelling authors who are living minimalist lives want to communicate how that looks and feels and works for their families. That is compelling and worth far beyond the $27 price tag. The catch, and there’s always a catch, is this sale lasts 3 days so if you’re interested in minimalist living you need to buy before October 7th. That’s not an affiliate link, by the way, I will make no money from the recommendation.

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Now about my dog…

Wilson has more than 100 things. He has a collar and tags, a training collar, a leash, bowls and food cups, toys, treats, beds, blankets and yes, even Halloween costumes. He has flea medication and brushes, doggy shampoo and registration papers. Vet papers.

He’s not even a high maintenance dog!

A line from Everett Bogue’s ebook about owning 1 really nice towel that cost $20 versus 8 or 9 crappy towels that cost $2-3 apiece reminded me of how much my dogs have. For the record, I have a dozen towels that are each at least 20 years old for spills, doggy baths and the muddy paws winter brings. Two dogs, 8 paws, 8 trips outside per day. You do the math.

I’m not going to downsize my life to exclude my pets so I can own under 100 items.

It’s just not going to happen!

However.

Reading and reflecting on the things I do own for the dogs led me to think how I could downsize. I have a dozen feeding bowls because they belonged to my grandma who had the compulsive need to feed her 5 cats every time they meowed. If she couldn’t find a pet food bowl she would use a human bowl. Thus, a dozen pet food bowls so I would never find cat hair in my cereal bowl. Do I need that many pet bowls now? Nope.

The costumes started off as a joke, I dressed Wilson as a crustacean and took him to visit my grandparents on Halloween. Wilson waddled down the hall with his 12 little legs and my grandpa laughed. Laughed. Here he is last year with Wilson and his doppleganger Chase:

So the costumes, which are incredibly cheap and easy to store, bring a lot of smiles and laughter to my grandpa. The rest of the residents at his care home love seeing the dogs too.

I’m not going to forgo what makes people I love happy for the sake of minimalism.

However.

I can sell or donate the older costumes that don’t fit and keep just one (the lobster one was already given away).

For me, learning about the minimalist movement is not about competition or giving everything up. But it is about learning what’s important to you (and why) and pursuing that instead of living life a little numb and driving around in a fog.  Consider buying this amazing set of ebooks, it’s $27 which is less than a tank of gas. Here’s the link again and remember to buy before October 7th.

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This is my debate nerd coming out again, thinking of the arguments I’ll hear back about the post…

I know it’s not the “dog in costume” that makes my grandpa happy. Mom and I visited him on Saturday with both dogs, no costumes and he was happy. We do the things that matter to him like going out to lunch, I go there for breakfast, we visit with the dogs and bring pictures of the family to him. But twice a year he also gets to go around with his friends to show off a dog in a costume and it makes him laugh. That’s worth it to me. So if it means trading $6 or $7 and some time at Target for the hot dog costume or Santa hat then it’s a trade-off I will make.

At least I’m doing it consciously.