Thursday, September 24, 2009

Budget woes or The conscientious eater - what can I eat?!

My budget is small. Not by the standards of some, but compared to what I'm used to from when I was working full time in high end projects in New York City (where the cost of living is also higher). Getting used to this is hard. To be invited to go somewhere for a weekend throws my gas budget way out of proportion. I was living the last month like I wasn't on the budget that I am an it's frustrating to see that at the end of the month I haven't paid (or received) my gas/electric bill yet and now I've spent my September money and so that will have to come out of October, along with October's gas/electric. I also have 2 trips planned to attend weddings one of which we will be staying in a hotel. Time to buckle down more than I have been. When grocery shopping I have been price comparison shopping and opting not to get things that are not in season.

I spent 2.5 hours grocery shopping because all my learning about the food system is making it even harder to shop. I see fresh strawberries that are organic and I get excited until I walk up to them, realize they are from California, a wave of guilt rushes over me and I pass them by. I walk to the freezer and look at berries and I don't know where they are from and I think about if they are from California as well all the energy it takes to truck frozen goods across the country. It makes me wish I'd been here in the summer to get my own produce and freeze it/preserve it. My goal for next summer is to U-pick a lot and preserve as much as I can. Canning, filling my pantry and freezing, filling my freezer (it's supposed to be more efficient when full anyhow). I'm only feeding myself so a freezer and cupboard full of preserved food ought to last me a while. I asked a professor of mine if he could teach me next summer how to preserve things and he said he will.

So, before next summer, I need to:
- save money to buy more food than I need in the summer
- read about preserving
- scout deals on jars for preserving
- figure out if I'm going to plant anything and what I want to pick and preserve (Pesto, tomato sauce, fruit, veggies, pickles, sauerkraut, etc.)
- hit the library, cause I can't afford to buy the books that I want!

Argh. Money. I have some food in my pantry so I will probably be having rice and beans and using the things I have in my freezer like that pound of ground beef from the farmer's market. My biggest fear is wasting food. Making a bunch of it and not finishing it and letting it go to waste. That's been one of my biggest hurdles, and I no longer have the excuse of roommates moving my food in the fridge (which tends to lead to me forgetting about it). It's all me!

I've also been keeping close track of my spending by keeping receipts and obsessively checking my account. I did start using my credit card again, so that I can get Amazon rewards, to buy books I need for thesis research and cookbooks. But still trying to make sure that I can pay off the credit card as soon as I get home- no balances carried over. (Making my credit card work for me). I also need to figure out how to save some money every month for bigger purchases like a flight home at Christmas time, postage for mailing New Years cards (cause no one's getting an actual present, unless it's home made and made from things I already have).

Ok, this is too much stress talk before 9am. Must study a bit before climbing the hill to school. I have a free bus pass but am enjoying the daily exercise (with the exception of arriving to school sweaty and then getting cold because I'm sweaty!). Come winter time though, we'll see if I feel the same.

1 comment:

  1. Man, I went through the same learning process the last few years. It's really fun. Here are some of the things I learned along the way:

    - jars. I bought lots full price. I bought lots at goodwill, but this turns out to be almost as expensive as new, because you usually have to buy the rings new, which cost about half as much as new jars. then, I got a huge stash from a friend's grandmother. if I had to do it again, I'd post on craigslist looking for cheap/free ones. I think a lot of older people have tons to get rid of.

    - upick totally rocks, obviously. I spent about 200 dollars upicking this year, from which I made about 50 pint of tomato sauce, 100 jars of jam, and maybe 100 bags full of frozen fruit. expensive, time consuming, totally worth it. you do have to plan ahead, though.

    - growing things. I tried growing tomatoes and basil this year, and I had bad luck with both. the basil was fixable, but the tomatoes were never going to satisfy me. if you want them for sauce, you need so many that I'd honestly suggest just finding them in bulk. look for canning tomatoes in bulk. I got 60 pounds recently for 49 cents a pound. So worth it. If you wait until late in the season, you'll find seconds and such even cheaper.

    - pressure canning. after I got comfortable with canning, I got really into pressure canning. it's great for chili, meat sauce, beans, etc. it's also great for homemade stock, which is my favorite way to use up bones and such.

    - canned stuff makes awesome gifts. I just made a bunch of fig conserve that I plan to give as christmas gifts.