Friday, May 26

Minor Tweaks and Cheesy Thoughts

If you've been following along you are aware that I've been eating a lot of beef just lately. Yes, I do like beef a lot, and I even still like it now that I'm eating so much of it, but eating similar foods quite often has outlined a few minor strategic thoughts or tweaks:

  • Cheesy Thoughts: As beef and pasta is a dish I consider pretty yummy, I've noticed that I can go through a fair amount of cheese as well. In fact, since my beef was so cheap, the cheese is possibly the most expensive remaining ingredient. Obviously, don't buy preshredded cheese, but if you are really scrounging, buy parmesan cheese. It lasts virtually forever, so there is no spoilage, and it is quite pungent, so you won't even need to use very much of it.

  • Spice it Up: Eating the same food all the time can get a little bit boring, to understate the case. Spices can certainly help deal with this type of issue. However, some spices are more expensive than others. In particular, if you don't have issues with your health that preclude doing so, use a bit more salt in your beef when cooking it. Compared to other spices salt is very cheap and has a large impact on perceived flavor.

  • Rice vs Pasta: I may have touched on this a bit earlier, but beef and rice is almost as good as beef and pasta. It is a little bit cheaper, as you can buy huge bags of rice for next to nothing, just realize that the rice is a bit denser than shaped pasta. Anyway, another very enjoyable dish is fried rice, which is a great way to deal with rice leftovers!

  • Dietary Goals: Although a bit less conventional, you can arrange your meals around your dietary goals or excercise routine. For example, on days that I work out, which is quite a few days really, I like to have something like beef and pasta. I need the carbs and my body is ready to deal with all the calories coming at it. On days I don't work out I may instead have only beef and low GI carbs such as beans with some tomato sauce and cheese. I eat cheap either way, but I do enjoy the carbohydrate laden meal more, which actually encourages me to go to the gym on days that I'm ambivalent about it.
Anyway, I have some dinner cooking in the kitchen, yes, it's beef, so I'd better get back to that. I'd hate to burn my food and have to throw it out - that just wouldn't be frugal!

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Thursday, May 18

Ground Beef: Shock and Awe

Today was a banner day in my ongoing campaign for frugality. While in the store picking up some much needed milk I did a reconnaisance mission in the butcher section. Oh my goodness, what did I spy, but lean ground beef on for approximately 1/4 of the regular price.

I spotted the same brand on sale a week or two ago and picked up a small amount just to make sure I liked the quality. You see, this brand is packaged up like sausage in a plastic wrapper, so you can't see the pedigree of the meat without opening the package. Anyway, upon cooking there was no free grease left in the pan, so it was just fine.

I quickly pounced on the ground beef, elbowing away little old ladies and timid men who aren't used to eating meat anyway, and filled my entire Red Riding Hood looking basket with ground beef. While a couple people didn't seem to understand the urgency, I loaded up on this stuff before somebody changed their mind. Heck, even the expiry date is still a whole week in the future. A week I tell you.

I've got a virtual ton of ground beef, chopped in half into one pound units, happily relaxing in my freezer. Holy Cow! I was so excited by this ordeal I forgot to pick up any milk. I guess I'll drop by tomorrow and see if they have any beef left on sale, there are a few openings in the corners of the freezer still; I'll be driving past the store anyway so it's not like I'm wasting gas either.

Mission accomplished. Want to come over for a BBQ? I've got plenty of fixings for the hamburgers...

Friday, May 12

Bulk Barn Redux

Today I finally made another trek down to the local Bulk Barn. Last time through I simply picked up some roasted salted peas, but this time I added a few more items to the purchase list.

Roasted Almonds
Nuts in general are pretty expensive these days, but it is important to get a good mix of fats in our diet. Almonds are a good source of protein as well as monounsaturated fats. Nice large, I want to say juicy but of course they aren't, and crunchy!

For these concerned about getting things right, "the almond that we think of as a nut is technically the seed of the fruit of the almond tree, a medium-size tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers. Like its cousins, the peach, cherry and apricot trees, the almond tree bears fruits with stone-like seeds (or pits) within. The seed of the almond fruit is what we refer to as the almond nut."

Roasted Chick Peas
I am sorry to say that while I was looking forward to trying these, I can't stand them. The taste is bland and they seem to form a sour paste in the mouth if you try to eat them as a standalone snack. Luckily, I only bought a tiny amount.

Roasted Salted Green Peas
As I reported on my first trip to the Bulk Barn, these roasted salted green peas are very good. They almost taste like nuts though, as you chew them, their underlying flavor comes out a little bit. Peas are a healthy snack and contain all kinds of nutrients having to do with energy and metabolism.

So, I have to 'fess up and admit that I spent about $11 today. Hopefully these snacks will last me a couple of weeks at least. I sure couldn't buy them any cheaper around here, but if I simply gobble them up because they are convenient I won't be saving any money at all.

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Saturday, May 6

Pasta Pasta Pasta

Lately, my favorite meal has been pasta. Since I go to the gym and work out a lot I need a fairly large quantity of food -- which of course is a difficulty at times when it comes to being frugal. However, my pasta meal seems to do the job of keeping me fed while not breaking the bank.

Ingredients:

    - ground beef
    - tomato sauce
    - shredded cheese
    - pasta
Of course, the biggest expense is the ground beef, so for a cheaper meal lower the amount of beef you are using. The shredded cheese can also be pricey if you use a lot of it, so try to use it sparingly. Obviously, fry up the ground beef first. When it has cooked set the burner to minimum. Cook and drain your pasta. Dump the beef into the pasta pot. Add tomato sauce to taste. Add shredded cheese to taste. Stir. Serve.

Personally, I buy large bags of no-name tricolor rotini. The green pasta has spinach in it while the orange pasta has carrots in it. This adds some vegetable nutrients into the pasta since I am not a big fan of vegetables. Anyway, as you may have guessed, increasing your protein and calorie needs by going to the gym regularly will have an impact on your frugality efforts.

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Monday, May 1

Pet Value

Okay, this isn't going to be a huge post about how to save all kinds of money on your pets via all kinds of strategies. It's just a few anecdotes that may help you look at things differently, or not, depending upon how you do think about those things now. So, with that out of the way...

I have two pets. They are left over from a relationship that eventually failed to turn into a marriage, although that is a long story suited for some other blog entirely, the gist is that while I love them, I never would have gotten them if left to my own devices. Luckily, for me and for them, they are currently my family, so they are somewhat spoiled.

When I go to the pet store to buy food or litter I see a lot of fancy toys. Since my pets are cats, things like fake mice, fluffy balls, balls with bells in them and things like that catch my eye, on their behalf of course. So, from time to time I will pick something up and see if they will be inclined to play with their new toy.

I have to report that for a long time the fake mice were a hit. I'd wake up with one by my feet in the mornings... and over a few days the little fake ears and tails would be chewed off with glee and false ferociousness. However, their latest fancy is the small multicolored fluff ball with bits of what appears to be a foil like substance squeezed in there as well.

Eventually all the toys figure out that the best hiding space is under the couch, where they can cower out of reach from prying paws. From time to time when the place is looking bare I'll grab the broom and root around under the couch with the handle. The cats recognize this tactic and it's a veritable field day as all sorts of long lost favorite toys are once again revealed to the light of day!

However, at the same time, there is absolutely no need for me to buy any of these toys at all. Every time I go to the grocery store and crinkle up a the receipt the cats will come running. If I throw the receipt they will chase it and bat it around for a while. Similarly, while there are all kinds of fancy cat beds for sale, my cats are more than happy to curl up into an appropriately sized empty box. If those are in short supply, all I have to do is lay out some clothing and before you know it there will be a cat laying there.

So far, at about seven and eight years old, neither of my cats has ever been introduced to catnip and they are still very playful. They'll chase me around the house, or vice-versa, from time to time. They "play laundry" whenever I try to fold and stow my clothes. They chase all my receipts, drop toys beside me when I'm trying to play on the computer, and otherwise cavort like little freaks whenever I'm trying to concentrate on something.

The moral of the story is that a happy cat is a healthy cat, whether or not you are spending tons of money on toys, sleeping arrangements and special foods. Your cat needs play and exercise, which doesn't cost a lot of money, but it does take a bit of time and attention. If you can spare your pets some time and attention, they might be able to spare you some extra veterinary bills in the long run and leave you with a few more fond memories when their short allotment of time is eventually up.

Besides, treat them well and I'm sure they say good things on your behalf when your time is finally coming to an end as well.

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