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Loving Life on Less

March 26, 2009

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures –When the going gets tough, creative women figure out a way to wear red lipstick, even if they have to mash berries with Vaseline to get it. An extravagant life full of joy, treats and special pleasures does not have to cost a lot of money and in fact, many are free for the taking. 

Small pleasures are essential in tough times – to keep up the morale, to shoo away the blues, to help you laugh. Start allowing your gifts of creativity and invention to overpower the paralysis of feeling powerless. Loving life with less will help stoke your own resourcefulness as you work toward simplifying your world.

Let’s start in the kitchen:

In my quest to simplify, meals have become my first mission. Why? It is part of the daily grind, it isn’t going away, and I felt it was worth the time to re-think and fix. I want my family to eat nutritiously and to take the stress out of the last minute “What’s for dinner?” panic attacks. Plus, I’m tired of waiting in line at our local grocer late Sunday afternoon in an exhausted last-ditch attempt to create a satisfying supper. In short, it is my goal to get it together before we gather together. So with pen and paper in hand, I constructed a plan. Here it is:

1.      Find the Fave-Five:  The top five recipes you know your family will eat. This is your little black dress approach to meal planning. One dress, or one list, dozens of accessories, or sides that are mix and matchable.


2.       Create a “getting my grocery groove on” list extraordinaire–something that becomes a signature detailing ALL items you typically use in a week. (I include paper products, personal items and cleaning potions.) Print this out and keep it handy to mark when you are out of something important. Your goal: Weekly trips to the grocery store, not numerous pop-ins for vital ingredients. This method saves time and money.


3.      Prior to your week, review the calendar. Clip coupons and then shop at stores which give double-coupon promotions (such as Kroger or Publix). These stores will double a coupon value up to 50 cents of its price. Some stores triple coupons!


4.      Plan your meals based on what you have on hand and on the week’s sales, instead of buying food to fit recipes.


5.      Learn to cook from scratch. Cooking from scratch is the cheapest (and best) way to eat. Learn to roll yesterday’s leftovers into today’s meal. Manage your refrigerator: never let anything go bad. Eat it or use it as an ingredient in a sauce, casserole, or soup. For example, old lettuce can be chopped and put into a soup, old salsa can be added to a curry, and taco meat can be repurposed into a southwestern quiche.


6.      Remember that while processed foods may seem cheaper and easier, they are actually a lot more expensive and a lot less healthy. Focus on buying cheap, healthy foods like beans, lentils, pasta, etc that are easy to make, healthy and cheap.


7.      Know who must be where and when they need to be there. If an activity conflicts with dinner, go easy on yourself. Schedule in a taco night, or take-home Chinese, or a pizza and movie night. No one enjoys a martyr mom when it comes to mealtime. 


8.     When you shop, only add to your “getting my grocery groove on” master list just what you need to make your week of planned meals.  On super busy nights plan simpler meals or carryout. (Many restaurants will offer a buy one get one free deal, find them and make them your new best friend.)


9.      Take a peek in your refrigerator, freezer and pantry, see what’s missing and add it to the list. If you have time, do a quick clean out of the fridge, tossing anything that looks like a penicillin-growing Petri dish, or an alien life form.


10.  When eating out share food. Usually at restaurants, food advertised for two people is sufficient for three. Don’t pay for more than you need!

Taming the meal monster can be done, by beginning with four easy steps. Plan ahead, create the “getting your grocery groove on” list extraordinaire, clip coupons (don’t forget, take them to the store) and keep a well-stocked pantry.  

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