Thursday, July 29, 2010

Grocery Scare

I'm already at the EEK! moment of curtailing our monthly expenses. The kids and Paul are distraught at losing cable, too.

I went grocery shopping Sunday or Monday and spent $90. I was feeling pretty smug about my weekly grocery bill. $600/mo? No problem.  But then yesterday I didn't know what to make for dinner and the family decided on turkey sandwiches and sweet potato fries. We stopped at the store on the way home from a doctor's appointment for Joey (Robert introduced himself as Joey for the first time in three years!). We bought a bunch of bananas, a bag of grapes, two nectarines, three yams, a box of tangerine fruit popsicles on sale for $2.50, a bag of cotton balls because I've been out for months, a pound of Diestel turkey ($10), a loaf of gluten-free bread ($5), and a bag of frozen sweet potato french fries also on sale. We spent $60.

$60 on dinner.

Ok, there was some fruit in there. Let's call that breakfast.

So $60 for dinner and breakfast for four people.

We could've eaten out for dinner AND breakfast for less than that.

Maybe eating out IS cheaper.

I don't know what to do about this. I don't know what to believe. And at $150 spent this week already (actually more because I went to Costco, too! and I don't know where the receipt for that is) ... I shouldn't be able to go shopping for another week AT LEAST but realistically two because of the Costco trip. And that feels impossible.

We have no meat in the house. No gluten-free bread. The fruit certainly won't last us two weeks. (Try four days.) Almost out of yogurt. No cheese (non-dairy or regular) because I forgot to buy any. I think we are low on gf pasta, maybe one more bag of it.

And we're traveling next week. I'm going to have to go shopping when I get to Massachusetts. I'll need to stock up Fernanda's (the kids' Portuguese gramma "Vavo") pantry with gluten-free, casein-free foods for Joey to eat while he stays with her. And when I'm at the conference I'll have to eat out for dinner at least three times, maybe four.

The eating out will have to come off my allowance, but the shopping for Joey will be more grocery money spent, so that for the rest of August I estimate we'll only have ... oh wait! Whew. This is still July. In August I'll get a whole new $600 to spend on food. August might actually be ok. The kids'll be gone for 18 days of it, so Paul and I can get away with eating lightly and cheaply. Rice and beans for us is just fine. We actually LIKE to eat that. And I can do a big shopping trip right before they get home.

Ok. I can do this.

And I'm sure the kids'll not be traumatized without cable. We have Netflix, You Tube and Saturday morning cartoons. Paul will not parish without his news. He can get it all online anyway. Even his favorite news shows, like the Rachel Maddow Show. But he will lose his boxing channels. And I'm sorry for him there.

Next up:  Should we cancel the land line? Should we cancel the internet? Both Paul and I can receive emails and send them from our phone (albeit MUCH slower), but Aubrey can't chat with her friends. And neither can Paul or I for that matter. And we totally use it. Almost every day. Plus those news shows he now has to get on the internet because we don't have cable? That'll be gone, too.

(And we've got three cars. One isn't used all that much. We can cancel the insurance on it and park it out at Paul's mom's house in the country to be used whenever one of our other cars goes belly up and we don't have the funds to resuscitate it. That'll save a few dollars.)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Bicycle Power

Bicycle-Powered Blender!!!
I love it!
I want one.

We went to Bite of Eugene at Alton Baker Park yesterday and lots of local food vendors showed up. It was an interesting break from the almost constant tv/computer viewing my children have been coercing me into.

These smoothies were free to passersby but have yogurt in them. I asked if it was possible to just make the next batch with apple juice and the fruit and leave the dairy out so Robert could drink some. They were totally game, and even rinsed out the blender to make sure there wasn't any yogurt residue.

Shortly after they started doing it, another woman walked up asking the same thing. :) Serendipity.

Robert quite enjoyed helping to prepare the smoothie.

Then some free jumping!
Even Aubrey partook.

       And here is my non-sequitor photo.

I had planned a solid week of sewing last week. All the children and myself are short of summer clothes and I have all the fabric and notions at my fingertips. So on day one I sat down and sewed up these shorts for Robert within two hours. They are completely huge. But he still wants them.

Alas, I haven't sewn since (and that was seven days ago.)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Money Drudgeries

Today I'm crunching numbers and trying to get creative about low-cost (read: free) activities and entertainment. And how in the world to half my grocery bill.

My garden is a bust this year because ... well, of all the reasons a garden might go bust: forgetting to water, not planting in time, etc. And plus, my uber-responsible Master Gardner roommate moved out and I haven't gotten into the swing of things regarding garden mentality.

So no free food there.

There's a Grower's Market in Eugene that I can take advantage of. I can donate a couple of hours there every week and then I can get 15% off my groceries purchased there, as I understand it.

And I can talk to a friend of mine that does really interesting things with her food budget, like: buying all her grains online wholesale, and shopping at Costco for certain things and picking fruit all summer long and preserving like mad.

I think I'm a little behind in the season for preserving all the things I could preserve, but I've already frozen blueberries and raspberries for smoothies, and canned strawberry jam. I'm interested in picking apples and making applesauce and apple butter, and picking peaches for canning and freezing. That was a big hit last year; they went fast. But honestly, I doubt I will have the energy or know-how for much more than that.

I could start buying produce at Farmer's Market and just put that into my schedule (for instance, tomorrow is Saturday's Market/Farmer's Market ... I could go and see if there was a type of food that the family would eat and buy something there instead of at the wonderfully convenient and shiny Market of Choice down the street from me.)

And I'd need to start buying produce more often, because oftentimes it whithers before we eat it and I just compost it.


Disclosure time.

Paul and I are extremely serious about cutting back our expenses this year. So serious in fact that we are going to (most likely -- still leaving a loophole) sell our huge house. It's been a good house, but the mortgage is just too high. We knew the house was too expensive for us when we bought it, yet still we did. It was just the right decision at the time. But now. We don't need it so much. And we especially don't need the ginormous mortgage.

So, we'll take a few months to work out the details ... like, do we want to buy a smaller house here in Eugene? Or rent an apartment and try to save even more money? And I anticipate making this change by the end of the year.

We'd like to be able to subsist on my income only, leaving Paul's for extravagant things like paying off credit card debt and paying for the girls' tuition. Aubrey wants to go to the Eugene Waldorf School and Aniela's getting into a private fashion school in Portland and needs some help with the living expenses that will evolve because of that. And he'd also pay the rent/mortgage at the new place.

So ... my income will pay for everything else. For a family of four. I get $2483/month from the VA and Social Security Survivor Benefits. (This will go away when the kids reach a certain age.)

Let's take groceries for a minute. I just added up the receipts I could find for the last month (and a few days), and I spent $1093.37 on groceries. I'd like to take that down to at least $600/month.

(insert blank stare)

I'm not sure where to even start.

And that's just groceries. We've allowed for me to have $200/month for allowance for me and the kids to use for everything. Everything. Last month I spent $359.14. (A little bit on underwear and socks, a gift for someone, a few drinks at Starbucks, a game for Family Game Night, and ordering a pizza on a day I couldn't fathom cooking dinner.) Oops. That didn't include all the money I spent on babysitting. I guess that'll have to come out of my allowance from now on, too.

Then there was $178.99 emergency vet bill for Kiya's hives, and the hundred dollars I spent in supplements for us yesterday.

I'm not trying to be one of those people that complain about having to give up their Gucchi allowance, and I don't get a latte everyday -- more like once every week (or even two!) But I am concerned about how to make this huge change. I grew up maybe not "poor," but I remember my mom deciding which of the bills to pay that month, and I learned from her that even if the bill is $63 and you only pay $10, you can't get sent to a collection agency or have your service shut off because you've at least paid something.

And when I got married the first time, we lived pay check to pay check and sometimes had $16 to last us until pay day. And when I was married to Rob (2nd husband), we lived with his mom the whole time and rarely went out to the movies or on dates or ate out. And still, sometimes Fernanda (Rob's mom) provided a buffer between our paychecks and reality. So when Rob died and I got some cushion, I stopped having to count my quarters to buy a few gallons of gas (or cigarettes depending on which time you're talking). Some might say that I chose not to worry about money at that point, some might say I didn't have to.

Either way, the result is ten years of not concerning myself with what things cost and allowing my values to dictate where I spend my money, thereby creating a dynamic where I don't know how to live frugally anymore.

Allowing values to dictate where you spend your money is not necessarily a bad thing. But when I go to the grocery store, I automatically throw the organic canned beans in the cart and don't even look at the difference in price for the conventional ones. Or sometimes I'll notice that organic peppers are $freaking-three or four ninety-nine EACH and the conventional ones are 88 cents. Bugger. So then I go through the huge conundrum of Do I Choose To Poison My Family This Week? Which pepper should I buy?

Shopping takes a long time for me and my conscience.

Or the DOG FOOD.

Damn. That one took me years to settle. Raising cattle is so destructive to our environment and I've watched so many documentaries about the hideous living conditions they live in, not to mention the antibiotics and hormones that are injected into them. And that the diet they are given kills them slowly and painfully. So if I don't want to support that industry and buy dog food with beef in it, then I need to go with lamb, chicken or turkey. Lamb doesn't agree with one of my dogs, so "no" for that, which leaves poultry.

Can you say "battery cage?"

I can't go down that road either. Paul and I were on our honeymoon in Mexico and happened to be driving down the highway behind a big truck FULL of stacked battery cages stuffed with white chickens. I could tell by looking that a third of those birds were already dead -- or wished they were -- from pure mistreatment.

So I've tried making my own dog food, which is spendy when you add in all the supplements that I've been told need to be added for their health and so I don't give them a deficiency in their diet, making them sick.

I've tried buying dehydrated raw food from my vet. Just add water and mix with your kibble to cut the cost in half. Still spendy.

And I've found one source in Eugene that carries organic dry dog kibble. So I'm currently feeding them that. But it's $50 for a 25 lb. bag. And I only knew that because I just went into the garage to look at it.
So, I identify two problems. One, that I can support my value of only buying organic meat products and pay $50 for 25 lbs of food, or not, and buy a 40lb bag of a FAR inferior product with god knows what in it (I've read those reports, too) for $20. And Two, that I didn't even know what the bag cost, because I just buy without checking in .... and that I think will save us the most money this year, if I can manage to not do that anymore.

I'm stopping. I feel like this post has turned into a rant. And I'm sorry for that, Dear Reader.

But I still don't know what to do about my budget. :)

Any suggestions for ways to cut back on spending? What has your family done for this past recession?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Sacred Writing Time -- Strike One

I had a strange dream last night.

You know what I would do if there was an earthquake?

Can you do the closure on my bra?

Then the dog stepped on my foot.

You know why I love the internet?

And in my dream I:   (insert HUGE story here).

Could you get the stuff ready for me cleaning the back door? I can't find the vinegar.

I'm hungry. I'm not saying you have to get up right now and get me something, I'm just saying that if I get too much more hungry, I'll get a little bit grumpy.

Yaw-Hoo! Yea, Baby! Uh-huh, Oh Yeah! (exclaiming over the computer game my son is playing.)

I take it the dishwasher is clean.

I would wait except for the fact that I'm so hungry it hurts!

Poison Arrow! (more computer gaming) Booya! Poison, poison, poison, poison, poison!

Will you stop chanting poison?

What? It's a poison arrow. (pause) Fine.

Two slices of deli meat.

Deli meat? What do you mean deli meat?



My work time/writing time is from 10am to noon. This is the rule around here. I write, the kids leave me alone unless there is blood or a fire.

Today. It didn't work so much.

Monday, July 19, 2010

To Be Free of the Me Others need me to Be.

Creation channels
the Rage in the Cage.
Battering, fluttering
Held against my will.
Who does the holding?
None other than me.
Set yourself free!
I yell.
To no Avail.
What's keeping me?
Why do I curtail?
Who Am I?
Will I like what
I discover?
Set Fire.
And banish
The old thoughts
And patterns.
Screaming to be me
To be free.
To be free of me?
To be free of the me
Others need me to be.
What do I want?
To find the hidden spring,
The well that
Holds all my passion
And ernst.
My glorious, cleansing


Friday, July 16, 2010

A Precious Paul Day Off ... spent at the pool

"Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K."

As I was trying to find a suitable picture to insert in this posting, I ran across this shot taken at Mt. Pisgah earlier this month. It seemed appropriate considering the path disappears into the trees, not identifying what direction it's heading -- let alone where it'll end up. And that seems to epitomize my life right now.

Not in a vaguely frustrating restless sort-of way, but more in a the future's so bright I gotta wear shades sort-of way.

The future holds delicious uncertainty for our family, and exciting things loom. Or maybe not. Maybe we'll stay right where we are on our path, but I think not. I don't feel at liberty to go into detail right now. But in a couple months time, I'll have a better idea if big and wonderous announcements need to be made.

So, for now, whether you are an occasional lurker on this blog, a die-hard follower, or even a family member -- continue checking back to see what things are afoot.

I don't say these things to be coy, or mysterious, but simply because I haven't been posting here because the only things on my mind are these unmentionables, and I wanted to reach out and explain my absense here. But I also am not divulging information because I just don't know the outcomes. I don't know where the path leads, or even if we'll stay on it. I could tell you what we are debating, but that might set things in uproar before we are ready to discuss it. So, please, be patient ... and maybe look for clues on here. (Because it is exciting, and I'd love to talk about it, but it just seems pre-mature.)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Snarkiness

My lovely children are soaking in the summer rays and sinking into the lazy mentality of, "It's summer vacation, Mom." This quote comes complete with either eye-rolling or a snarky tone to the voice. Fully automated. Batteries included. Every time I ask them to do something.

I'm getting a little bit tired of it.

But here are moments captured that don't involve said snarkiness:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Celebration of Me

At first contemplation, the only times I've been celebrated have been on my last few birthdays where I've invited my friends to congregate around me and share the most precious of things with me ... time. Their time.

But that is not true ... for I am celebrated every day. Every day my son hugs me, every day my husband touches his skin to mine and every day my daughter smiles at me.

I am celebrated because they love me and choose to share that with me.

Whenever I receive an email from Jesse he signs it *Big Jesse Hug* and when I see my friends, their faces light up like they are so happy to see me. And they are. And that is how I am celebrated.

When I read something at a No Shame performance, I receive applause, and (though all do) I see this as a celebration of me. Of what I've shared -- that piece of me.

When I share my writing excerpts to Paul, or my critique group, I receive honest feedback and constructive critique -- and I feel celebrated then, too. Celebrated for my words and honored that I am spoken truth to. That I am worthy of being told the truth.

And so, I celebrate me for being me. Because I am a good person. Worthy of love and compassion and friendship and truth and authentic relationships.

And I celebrate me because I like who I am.

I'm me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Why I Love Music and Movies

I often wish that I were more musically inclined -- either with playing an instrument or with singing. But not enough to actually put the work in for learning and training. But despite this I feel a great affection for musicians and have at times in my past called them my friends and supported their musical efforts as best I could.

I've had musicians as roommates, friends, and co-workers.

I listen to all sorts of music and, like reading the written word, I find myself moved and swayed through emotions depending on what type of music I'm listening to. This is one of the reasons I've been in awe of musicians -- as well as writers: their ability to carry people on waves of emotions, and usually at their own manipulation. They write sweet melody to sway listeners to love, they write angry rants to instill indignity so people will sit up and listen.

When I listen to music, I remember. And that is why I love it.

If I listen to Frank Sinatra, I think of Paul, my husband and love.

When I listen to The Cranberries and Dishwalla, I think of Mobin and searching and my time spent living at Zach's house trying to find who I was.

When I hear Seal, I think of Tim and our few perfect moments and the more moments feeling not that perfect.

When I hear No Doubt, I remember a restless time in Montana and secrets and a crazy summer working at Blockbuster and riding a motorcycle and a jet ski and flirting outrageously and being the 'other woman' briefly. And oddly, I think of my sister, Leslie.

When I hear eighties music, I'm transported to 7th grade innocence and dreaming of my crush, Mike Spowehn, and discovering masturbation (but not because of Mike), and then later high-school and dating my first real boyfriend and MTV and 'butt rock bands,' like Bon Jovi and Europe, Poison and Warrant.

But Firehouse and Erasure remind me especially of Eric (that first real boyfriend), and OMD reminds me of Kari Martin -- my locker partner in junior year.

And movies. There are certain movies I watch over and over purely for the feelings they instill in me. Like a nurturing friend.

I'll watch Sabrina (with Harrison Ford) when I feel lost in myself and need to feel stronger. I watch Little Women (with Winona Ryder) when I miss my sisters. I watch Jane Austen (especially Pride and Prejudice) when I want to go to a slower time, when I feel like I'm trying to do too much, or that too much is expected of me. Or, strangely, when I feel carried away romantically or sexually with a new partner or crush and I feel I need to slow down -- to take lessons from a time when you only kissed a man if you were engaged to him. I watch Uncorked if I want to remind myself to be authentic. And I watch Serendipity when I want to feel closer to Paul and re-live our early dating days.

And then anything foreign is awesome. :)