Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What does $137.00 Worth of UFF Groceries Look Like?

...I'm so glad you asked.

I have fairly often had the experience of being disappointed at the grocery checkout when comparing my spending total to the amount of food that I'm actually bringing home. Of course, quantity relative to cost depends a lot on your specific purchases--some big items will quickly drive the bill up.

I was happily surprised to have had the opposite reaction after grocery shopping Friday. With the amount of items, the total seemed suspiciously reasonable to me.

This shopping trip was at Winco, an employee-owned discount grocery store. They save money by not having baggers and not accepting credit cards. It feels a little like Costco--large, cavernous, and warehouse-like--but food items are not all sold in large quantities. They have begun carrying some organic items and a few local brands that I like to support. When saving money with groceries, it's important to know where the best prices on your staples can be found. Winco is the place for many, but not all, of our commonly bought food items.

Here's what $137 worth of groceries looked like for the UFFs.

Baking supplies:

Darn it--forgot to include the bulk chocolate chips

Fresh (mostly dairy) items:

Cheddar is essential around here

Fruits & Veggies:

Bananas and salad are organic, the rest not

Canned/packaged items:

Black olives for homemade pizza

The "carb" food group (heavy on whole wheat):

The Annie's is comfort food for our emergency supplies

Bulk items:

Rice, red lentils, split peas, peanuts, walnuts, raisins

Miscellaneous food and beverage items:

Vegetarian burgers, seltzer and tea bags

And finally, the non-food items:

Vitamins and floss--exciting stuff

It looks even more impressive when everything is on the table:

I'm very curious. Dues this look like a lot of food for the price to you, or not? 
How does this compare to food prices where you live?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Frugal Weekend Fun Part II

Oh, it is hard to go back to work after a three-day weekend. I want more time

Here are some other frugal activities from the UFF household:

  • Baking. Saturday evening I made chocolate chip cookies: UFF Dad and I had a few each and they had disappeared by morning. Sunday I made whole-wheat chocolate-chip walnut muffins--woke up Monday to find them gone

UFF Dad made some pizza dough rolls. Anyone else trying to keep a teenage boy fed?

  • Running. I went both Sunday and Monday. I live two miles from a trailhead to our urban greenbelt, and it is spectacular to be able to head to the forest on foot. I took UFF Dog up there Sunday, which led to him becoming a mud ball and requiring a bath on return. Monday we stayed on a flat bark trail to avoid having to repeat the bath process. 13 miles total. 
gear--hydration pack and gels for long runs
  • Reading. I read several chapters of JL Collin's book The Simple Path to Wealth. I feel so far from needing the instructions in the second half of the book, when he talks about what to do once you are financially independent, that it's a little discouraging. I'm still in the early stages, trying to live as simply as possible and invest as much as possible. I'll need to come back to this book in a few years when I'm closer to the goal of saving and investing yearly living expenses x 25, and it doesn't seem so distant. It's full of good advice.

  • Cleaning. Actually, after an argument a mild disagreement about who does more around the house, UFF Dad felt compelled to showcase his impressive housekeeping skills. I am very grateful for a clean downstairs and kitchen floor. It was covered with UFF Dog's mud prints prior. 
Dog prints before washing floor
  • Eating together. We had several nice salads this weekend:

  • Reading and knitting. We finished the Agatha Christie murder mystery And Then There Were None. It was highly suspenseful. Another chapter! More! I made lots of sock progress as UFF Dad read out loud. 

It was a good, full, three days, and the only money spent was at the grocery store (Winco).

Weekend spending total: $137.00

Did you have a long weekend?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

UFF Weekend Fun Part I

Hurray--a long weekend means extra fun. Here was my Saturday frugal fun….

Removed Xmas decorations from the exterior of the house, and about time too. UFF Boy chopped up the poor, dried tree that had been sadly languishing on the patio, and put it in the yard waste recycling for me (actually he chopped, and I gathered).

Also took down the swag beside the front door. Welcome Spring! We're ready for you now!

Tackled the clothing storage problem for the UFF Parents. We had been using a crowded corner of UFF Dad's home office closet for our non-hanging clothing. This was the previous closet situation:

The difficulty in putting things away was a strong deterrent for me to perform a task that I already dislike, which led to a lot of this:

I moved the clothing cubbies and small dresser out to the second floor open space. It's much more open, easier to see things when getting dressed in the morning (to avoid embarrassing moments like the one I had Friday, when I realized at work that my shirt was on inside-out), and a shorter distance to travel before being put away. Every step counts. See at how much better it looks:

UFF Dad and I now each have one drawer of this dresser for socks and undergarments. He felt that since our feet are about the same size, we should combine our sock drawer, but I think he's just trying to wear more of my hand knitted socks ;).

Didn't get pictures of it, but I took one bag of items to the artists' materials recycling center (and didn't buy any yarn), one bag of electronics items to the computer/electronics recycling center, one bag of clothes that didn't fit back to my generous neighbor, and several large pieces of furniture that had been stored in the garage ( a hideous armchair and stool, an old filing cabinet) to a thrift store for donation. It will be a lot easier to get my bike in and out of the garage now.

And finally, to the delight of UFF Boy, I went to the discount grocery store. I forgot my list and probably picked up a few extra items, but did very well for the amount of food purchased.

Pleasantly satisfied, I then stayed up much too late knitting and watching Grantchester Season 2 and reading the novel for my book group, Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber.

What did you do on Saturday?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Weekly Do the Numbers

Here are our weekly spending totals from Friday 2/10/17 to Friday 2/17/17. *

Groceries: $37.96 (we are due for a big, big, BIG grocery shopping this weekend)

Medical expenses: $13.66

Eating out/gifts: $95.50

Yoga classes: $20 (for three sessions)

Miscellaneous: $27.56 (bota box of red wine, chocolates, and pretzels for a gathering)

Grand total: $194.68

* These spending numbers are for categories that I cover from our family budget: groceries, household expenses, gifts, bicycle transportation, medical expenses, college expenses for UFF Son, and miscellaneous. While we also have and pay utility bills, gas and car expenses for our one car, life insurance, and mortgage payments, I am not including those here. 

Tell me about your weekly numbers!

Friday, February 17, 2017

UFF Weekly Roundup

Frugal habits and new ventures this week

Fixed with superglue


  • Went walking on work breaks instead of going to the yarn thrift store: daily. 
  • Morning tooth care: maybe twice? Must get up earlier, or not read the news before work (there are other benefits to not reading the news first thing too, such as a less stressed out day).
  • Oatmeal for breakfast: 7/7 days. So delicious (with cinnamon and blueberries) and so frugal.
  • Tea instead of coffee in the morning: 0 times. It's just not the same.
  • Set up a new checking account with Chase Bank in order to get a $300 incentive. I will have to keep it for 6 months, and had to transfer direct deposit of paychecks from my credit union. This meant spending my entire lunch hour at the bank one day, but it was a well-paid hour. 
  • Signed up for Swagbucks. Sadly, my computer is not up-to-date enough to watch the videos, etc.  that earn big points. I did a few surveys, got a little lost and annoyed, and gave up. Any suggestions? 
  • Plan to try a free yoga class at a new studio tomorrow, led by yoga-teachers-in-training. This could be a great way to get my yoga fix on the weekend. 
  • Fixed my work sandals with superglue. The soles were peeling away from the toes and I kept tripping. It worked. 

This is a three-day weekend for me, and I am so looking forward to a catch-up weekend. My plans include taking care of some unpleasant but loudly nagging tasks (like laundry, and cleaning the pile of papers and receipts that is my desk), taking some things to donate at St. Vincent de Paul (local thrift shop), and working on the taxes. Oh yes, and it's time to do the CSS Profile, a financial aid application akin to the FAFSA but used by private colleges and universities and much, much more detailed.

IN between all that, I plan to fit in some frugal fun: a forest run, a free yoga class, Grantchester Season Two, and of course, knitting! And maybe trying my hand at making the Frugal Girl's English muffin recipe.

Crazy Socks are getting longer!

How about you? What are your plans for frugal weekend fun?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Five things I DID buy this week

Here we go! A pendulum swing after last Thursday's things I didn't spend money on.

This was a different week.

Here are five things I purchased:

1) Dinner out with my good friend. It was an indulgence, but extremely fun. This is a friend that I don't get to see very often, sadly, and we lingered for a long time on Saturday evening, enjoying ourselves over good food and drinks. Part of the reason for frugality is to be able to prioritize experiences and relationships. I hope to take her out again soon.

2) Yoga classes. Oh how I have missed my lovely by-donation Vinyasa yoga studio. (I previously had a Groupon pass that worked out to about $1.50 per class). I went twice with a friend this week and remembered how good yoga makes me feel. It is already a low-cost studio (no receptionist, etc.), so no chance of volunteering for free classes, but I want to support them and the classes certainly support me. Maybe after I've been doing yoga more regularly for a while I'll be able to practice on my own.

3) Cheddar cheese sesame snacks for UFF Boy. He is always starving late at night these days. Although I want to encourage healthier (and more frugal) snacking, I also wanted to get him a little treat. Sesame seeds have healthy fats, right?

4) A fancy coffee drink. Sometimes I think that living frugally makes me a bit like someone emerging from a time warp. When I was an undergraduate in college (I won't tell you how long ago), I could, and often did, buy a 16 oz black coffee for $1.00. A large coffee--good coffee--for a buck. This was before Starbucks. I feel so antiquated now, shaking my head and muttering "$5 for a mocha? Are you kidding me?"

5) Over-the-counter cold medications for UFF Son. Yes, he is a (young) adult and could buy his own. But sometimes, it is nice to help out our adult kids a little bit. UFF Grammy has certainly done this for me and I want to be able to pass this on too. Learning to manage money and expenses is a process.

How about you? What did you spend money on this week? 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February 15, 2017 Wednesday Musings

UFF Dog with his last bed

I "outed" my frugal self to two real-life friends this week, and it felt strange.

I tend to downplay my most extreme frugal weirdness in public--certainly at work and with people I don't know well. And actually, even among close friends I don't make a very big deal about it, although tips (such as which cheap red wines are drinkable, where to buy tofu ends by the pound, and self hair-cutting pointers) are exchanged with friends who also live frugal lives by choice or necessity.

Situations in which I often feel awkward are those in which I need to explain why I choose not to do something that others are doing, or that is being discussed. It would be disingenuous to say that I can't spend money on X,Y, or Z--yoga classes, eating out, social gatherings, clothing. I am privileged to be able to afford the necessities of life, and more. If I was not focused on saving--for what jlcollinsnh calls f-you money, but what I prefer to think of as financial security or independence--my daily life certainly could be less financially restrictive.

But I choose to find creative ways to live a rich life with minimal spending, so that I can also choose to spend on those things that support my values and are most important to me. Financial security is certainly one of those things, based in part on raising a family with very little money for many years. At that point, frugality was an absolute necessity and not a choice.

While we were never short on food and always had a home (and lots of books), in the days before the Affordable Care Act, I recall the stress that accompanied purchasing private monthly insurance for my family that did not even cover preventative care such as vaccines and routine physicals for my young kids. I also remember the shame of taking a child with a decayed tooth to the dentist and being asked "Why did you wait so long to bring him in?!"

These days, I choose to prioritize helping my son through college (for now only one), so that he can start off in life without a lot of debt. I also choose to try to save and invest 50% of my income; currently into retirement savings. I didn't start saving until my early 30s, having spent a number of years staying home with my boys and working part-time at interesting, low-paying jobs. We UFF Parents are not getting any younger, and try as UFF Dad might to deny it, most people want to retire eventually. I know I do.

All that to say, I'm lucky to have the choice to live frugally, but it also can lead to some social awkwardness--which is why I usually avoid going into any in-depth conversations around it, lest I be judged (as selfish or miserly) or be perceived as judging others.  However, I felt the need to explain to my dear friend who visited last weekend why I was so hesitant (aka being a party pooper) about some activity suggestions, and so told her about this previously top-secret frugality blog (Hi C!). This was a bit of a cowardly way to share, because I told her about the blog as she was leaving town. Then, I met with my knitting friend S at lunchtime Monday, and felt compelled to spill the beans again…only to discover that she too is a proud frugal weirdo (Hi S!). In fact, I'm pretty sure that neither of us ordered anything at the coffeehouse where we met to knit. Oops.

It feels a little vulnerable. I'm happy with my frugal life and its challenges and rewards, but I'm not sure that I'm ready to broadcast it. Interestingly, I find that having to be frugal is much more socially acceptable than choosing to be frugal.

I'd love to hear from other people about your experiences opening up to friends and family about your frugal life, and their responses. Or your response to frugal weirdo friends. Please share!