Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cheap Eats from Farmer Jones

Brainstorming galore over here, how to live with the new reduced cash flow on the horizon. We were making extra payments towards principal for our mortgage and student loans, so we can instantly save by dropping to the monthly required payment, but those remain our biggest expenses and I don't know that we can budge further there. And we already have lived so frugally that there's no more to cut in most other categories -- which is a good thing, because it's what gave us the savings reserve to even make this leap.

The few things we could still eliminate that would actually free up some money, like going back to being a one-car family or never traveling ever to see our parents and siblings, we're going to make the judgment call to hold on to and just try to manage well and wisely.

I could look into a job now that the kids are in school, but I still feel pretty strongly that my presence in the home is priceless, and so I'm letting that one simmer for a while to see what I think. I have a teenage son who still waits with the light on for us to come hug and kiss him goodnight, and if we lose that connection because I'm MIA more often, I have a hunch it'll be hard to rekindle.

So really, a grocery budget isn't going to make or break us, yet it's where I spend my most consistent time and effort (cooking and shopping) so I do aim to tweak it if I can. Here's what makes the cut: single-source olive oil, butter, whole milk, natural peanut butter, and coconut oil, yes. Somehow I'll keep those in the budget. Imported unrefined sea salt and organic celery, um, no. So beyond that, how bored can we get of oatmeal, homemade bread, beans, rice, pasta, and potatoes? (And can we avoid gaining weight on such fare if it's constant?) Time will tell, I suppose.

I'm hoping to retrain myself to skip some of the constant produce I buy, despite its healthiness; to help, I'm planning to take our 20- by 30-ft. garden up to double size next year, adding 10 more feet on each axis. We'll also invest in some 'plastic mulch' and floating row covers to help us with all our pest and weed problems. If it works, I'll scale down on our fruit servings and see how far we can get with our own food supply.

When we first put in our garden, an indirect, kitty-corner neighbor would see me out working in my big straw hat and boots; I found out later that she nicknamed me 'Farmer Jones' in her mind, as a friendly way of referring to me. She could tell I enjoyed being outside, digging and planting, and I still smile to think of myself as some unknown floppy-hatted dame. I guess this coming year will give me the chance to really live up to the moniker!

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