One of my goals in the new year is to fine tune expenses. While I'm not necessarily interested in lowering all of my expenses, evaluating them annually is a worthwhile effort. At least I think so.
While I am feeling better, I would observe that the recovery from the illness seems to be three times as long as the illness itself. I have what I call an "after cough" for lack of a better expression that continues to hang on. I don't expect that I'm contagious, but people look at you strangely out in public when you bark like a circus seal. Add to that the fact that I can, literally, fall asleep while sitting down and reading-and I am still spending much of my time at home and indoors. I probably should force myself outside for a walk daily but when I do so the coughing gets much worse. Ill settle for an occasional sit in the cold air on the patio. Oh, and the billed cost on my three days in the hospital? Exactly half of what the total billed cost was of the last year of my husband's life in Germany. Sigh.
What has the above got to do with retirement expenses (other than the fact that not leaving the house radically impacts one's spending??). Nothing, other than the fact that I've had extra time to think and compare expenses. When it comes to groceries, in truth, there are not any more sacrifices I am willing to make-though that may change if food prices rise drastically. I rarely eat out, unless I am traveling. Otherwise, I eat out perhaps three or four times a year at the maximum. These are usually extremely special occasions. When I do eat out, it is at gourmet restaurants. I add this only to say that I really don't have the need to be waited on, or to get out of the kitchen. I eat out because I like really, really good and esoteric food.
Because I don't eat out, I'm willing to spend more on good quality groceries as a substitute. I'm also willing, on occasion to do the gourmet grocery aisle thing-the roasted chicken and pre made salads make a meal or two for a price I can rarely beat. Because produce often goes bad when you are a family of one and a half (son eating here half to full time), I also have been known to buy those packages of fruit in the container.
There are ways, however, that I manage to keep my expenses lower. One of those ways is, believe it or not, to shop for certain things in bulk. I'll say here that I'm not someone who likes to shop, and I don't need a trip to the grocery store as an outing. Lots of people like that as part of their routine. I enjoy shopping for produce, meat and seafood. But I prefer to shop more rarely for non perishables and freezer items, and find it causes me to spend less in the long run. Even tough I am a single person, the warehouse club has value for me. I share the membership, and its a moderate list, but the list of things I buy there every six months make my life much easier. These include dog food (Kirkland's Best being very highly rated), cans of tuna, cans of tomatoes, olives, mushrooms and broths. Every month I tell myself I could make my own stock and freeze it, and every month neglect to do so. I purchase large rolls of chicken breasts and thighs (each two to a zip pack). I buy paper products and detergent for six months. In my area, Costco has a cheaper price for, and better lamb than anyone including the local butcher. All this stuff does require a one time outlay of cash-but they are also things that are left off my shopping list for the next six months to a year.
I also cook everything from scratch. Mind you, this doesn't mean I grind my own flour, or make my own peanut butter. It does mean I make all my own baked goods, sauces and soups. It means that my freezer, with the exception of ice cream and frozen veggies is full of stuff made by me, not the store. When the recipes are for four or six, leftovers become the next days meal, lunches, or frozen for further down the road. Occasionally (but more rarely as time goes on) I really do "cook in bulk" and freeze multiples of the same meal. This happens more often at this time of year when it's lasagna and roast time, than during the summer. However, I'm still looking for that apartment sized freezer, so my options are truly limited.
I have finally embraced cooking small. It has taken the family cook quite some time to get there. I now have a small slow cooker and a book on slow cooker cooking for two. I am eagerly anticipating the March release of a new cookbook titled One Pan, Two Plates, as one of the frustrations of cooking for one or two (at least for me) is the huge number of items used in preparing, and the time vs enjoyment. I've used my limited math skills and the web to downsize many baking and dessert recipes. I can make either two or four popovers and a pie in a four to six inch pie plate. This has really eliminated waste for this semi single retiree.
All and all I'm happy with my grocery expenditures. Admittedly I live in a lower cost of living state. Texas grows almost everything but oranges. I have access to fresh produce both at groceries and many farmers markets such as this one. Dallas has a wide variety of grocers, leading to a fair amount of competition in spite of rising prices. At this point in my life, I have budgeted one hundred dollars a week for food. This doesn't non food items. It feeds myself and a six foot six college student. We eat well and our diet includes lots of produce and meat and fish, coffee, soda, tea, beer and wine (after all, I need that red wine and chocolate nightly). Could I lower things if I had to? Probably. But eating well, as well as eating healthy, are high on my list or priorities. So for now, I'll stick with where I am.
What about you? Have your food prices risen? Are you happy with your grocery costs? Do you prefer to eat out more or stay in? I do love to hear how others do it in other places! I'm off to sew, take a nap, and fine tune my insurance costs.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
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