Week Seven

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Week Seven (2/15 – 2/21) was one of those weeks where I was planning on cooking something fresh but ended up pulling stuff from the freezer early in the week and then decided I should just finish that up along with other leftovers in the fridge instead of making something new and adding to the leftover pileup.

On Monday I had muesli with soy milk (I did open the soy milk I had bought in case of weather) along with some squash bread and fruit for breakfast, and pasta with tomato sauce from the freezer for dinner. Also some cheese and crackers and almonds for a snack while fixing dinner, and my favorite dessert for when I’ve scrounged dinner and it wasn’t quite enough, Nutritious Uncooked Candy with chocolate chips.

On Tuesday, I had cereal and banana and squash bread for breakfast, and then for dinner, I pulled some black beans and chicken from the freezer, along with some salsa, which I ate in a tortilla with cheese, and it was exceptionally good for something that I basically happened upon in the freezer while I was trying to figure out what to eat. I had almost forgotten about the kiwifruit I’d bought on 2/11; I had one of those for dessert and it was great, I love kiwifruit.

(And a moderately related aside… I played soccer in DC on a team with some people from New Zealand and I never got over them referring to each other and fellow New Zealanders as kiwis. There was always a brief moment of disconnect when they said something like, “Do you know him? He’s a Kiwi.” before I remembered they were talking about a person, not the prickly brown-skinned fruit.)

On Wednesday, I had the breakfast of the week, cereal with soy milk, banana, and juice, and for dinner had a work-related thing with free pizza. More cheating.

On Thursday, I was finally out of cereal so had oatmeal and an apple, along with a handful of almonds and a glass of juice for breakfast. And I finally had time to get to the store and was planning on actually fixing something but realized I still had black beans and chicken, plus the end of the African stew which I had not been able to give away, and needed to either eat or dump. I decided to give it one more shot.

So instead of getting stuff to make a meal, I just bought a few staples and things for the freezer and pantry.

Receipt Week Seven, Part I

Week Seven, Part I

Receipt Week Seven, Part II

Week Seven, Part II

I stopped at Bruegger’s and got day-olds, then hit Whole Foods and got some prunes (Bulk Organic Pitte) and figs (Unsulphured Turkis), which is my version of candy, I like to snack on those. I got an avocado and tomato to go with the beans, and some grass-fed New Zealand cheddar (Cheddar New Zealan) that was on special for $4.99/lb. I bought a can of tuna (Albacore Tuna in S), and a $0.99/lb apple (Apples Empire CV) and two kiwifruits (Kiwi Bin Og). And a head of garlic (Garlic Super Colos).

I got a $3 refund for returning the Mapleview Dairy milk bottles (Bottle Refund). This is not cheating as this is not free money; I paid an extra $1.50 each time I bought milk.

(Another moderately related aside: For a while, different stores were giving different refunds for Mapleview bottles. One of my friends would buy it at a place that charged a $1.20 deposit and return it to a place that gave a $1.30 refund. He said he felt like he was in a Seinfeld episode.)

Total cost for the day $11.98.

This was my only shopping day for the week. You can see cumulative totals on the Expense Summary Page. I don’t think I’m going to be anywhere near $100 this month.

For dinner I had round two of the black beans and chicken in a tortilla with cheese, along with some rice and some avocado, plus vegetables from the African stew. I decided it was the broth I didn’t care for; if I just ate the vegetables it was fine.

For dessert, I had a kiwifruit.

And then came Friday, which was by far the worst food day I’ve had on the project.

I had a work lunch meeting and had a crab cake sandwich and fries, which felt tremendously high in sodium to me. (The downside of cutting way back on sodium is that you really notice it when you eat food you didn’t cook yourself, and then if you get something that really is high in sodium, it feels like you’re eating salt. Blech.)

We had a gallery opening at The Scrap Exchange and since I was going to be in the vicinity of Trader Joe’s, I decided to do a re-stock on wine (I bought a bunch for them in September and was down to the last two bottles) and offered to get the rest of the food while I was there.

I spent $85 on 12 bottles of wine, two boxes of crackers, brie, goat cheese, hummus, pita chips, grapes, apple juice, dark chocolate, three tubs of cookies and $3.23 for something that’s listed as “grocery” on the receipt that I have no idea what that was. Do you think they just randomly add things to people’s bills? I bet they could get away with it.

I ended up hanging out at the opening serving as bartender for pretty much the whole evening, and eating cheese and crackers and cookies, and then I brought home the stuff we didn’t use — basically 10 bottles of wine, half a box of crackers, and most of the cookies — so I can keep it at my place and we can use it (or most of it at least) for future openings.

This normally works fine, but given the not-so-good lunch and the late hour I ended up eating a whole bunch of those little cat cookies and chocolate, after eating a bagel with peanut butter and some mango for a late supper. So then I just felt gross.

It was a bad food day all the way around.

(For the record, sometimes I get reimbursed for the food I buy for Scrap Exchange and sometimes I count it as a donation; bringing the leftovers home complicates the issue somewhat. I don’t really want to get reimbursed for food that I end up consuming myself. That really is cheating.)

Saturday I had made tentative plans to meet up with a friend for lunch and we ended up going to Watts Grocery for brunch and I had some fabulous buttermilk pancakes and fresh-squeezed orange juice, which almost made up for the disaster the previous day. But I still felt salted up, so I had a Rice Diet dinner, oatmeal and an apple and the rest of the mango. But then I broke down and ate more cookies and chocolate.

On Sunday, I had a repeat of the no-sodium meal for breakfast, oatmeal and an apple, and was finally starting to feel better.

For dinner, I finished the vegetable stew (hooray!) and had a cheese quesadilla with avocado and salsa, after a late afternoon snack of almonds and cheese and crackers and dried fruit. And a very small number of cookies. And then I sealed up the stupid cookies and put them in the freezer.

And that was it for Week Seven.

7 Responses to “Week Seven”

  1. Lorrie Says:

    Do you usually only eat two meals a day? I’d have a very tough time with that.

  2. auntieintellectual Says:

    Oooh, those cat cookies are devilish, especially the ginger ones. Better luck next week.

  3. Amy Says:

    Glad to see you’re human! What is it about food that makes it impossible to be rational around it all the time? I know it’s ridiculous to spend $11.00 going out for breakfast when I could make it at home for pennies…but sometimes I do eat out and it makes me happy…and sometimes I eat out and it doesn’t make me happy! And sometimes I’m appalled by how much money I waste on non-essential food. Sigh.

  4. lessisenough Says:

    Yes, the two-meal-a-day thing was quite the issue during my Dollar a Day project.

    I’ve been working freelance since January 2002 and when I first started, much of my work had to be done when no one else was working (I was working on a database system that couldn’t be modified while people were using it) and because of this, I got in the habit of working on nights and weekend. And I decided I actually like this, because it means I can have afternoons to do other things — exercise or errands or whatever other things I need to do — and also it’s generally more efficient for my clients. They can send me stuff at the end of their day and I can work on it at the start of my day and get it back to them quicker than if we were working on the same schedule. Also the work I do and the way I work require long, unbroken stretches of time with no interruptions which is really hard to get in the middle of the day. But generally not a problem between 9pm and 2am.

    The problem is that I have to get through the things I have to get through and sometimes I’m done at midnight but sometimes I’m done until 5:30am. Once you start going to bed at 1am, 2am, 3am — and you don’t have to be at an office at a particular time or have other tasks that have to be done in the morning — you tend to start sleeping later and you end up with kind of a time shift.

    So I have a weird schedule where I don’t get up until late morning so I eat two larger than average meals in a fairly compressed time frame (generally between noon and 8pm), but that works for me.

    In the summer I typically stop working at 3/4/5ish and have somethng to eat, then go biking, then shower, then eat again, then start working. So that’s sort of three meals, but two of them (first and third) are typically yogurt and fruit or a smoothie and a bagel or something like that. The 4pm meal is something more dinner-ish.

    In the winter I don’t exercise as much so two meals is fine, sometimes with a snack when I get back from my errands while I’m making dinner.

    I think this is one of those areas where different people are different — some people need to eat frequently throughout the day but there are also people like some friends of mine who swear by the Fast 5 approach, where you eat whatever you want in any 5 hour period of the day, but nothing at all in the other 19 hours. You can find more info on that at http://www.fast-5.com.

    (And, as an aside, I think that officially settles the question of whether no matter what someone says about food and nutrition, someone else will say exactly the opposite.)

    Basically I think it just depends on your schedule and your body and what kind of food you’re eating. I think whatever anyone can come up with that allows them to feel good and have energy and stay at a healthy weight is fine, and whether you divide your daily calorie alottment into two portions or three portions or five portions is up to you.

    If I started working in an office again and had a more normal schedule, I would probably start eating meals at more normal times. It is sort of difficult when people come to visit or I go on vacation or work trips; I tend to feel jet-lagged no matter where I go.

  5. lessisenough Says:

    All of these projects have made me think about food and what people eat when, and one of the things I realized is that there are all kinds of reasons that people eat that have nothing at all to do with being hungry — and I don’t mean that in a pathological way, substituting food for love or whatever. Just that there are all kinds of cultural and social aspects that I think it’s important to consider if you’re trying to change your own behavior or suggest to others that they change theirs.

    For instance, I tend to eat out more on Fridays, because Friday afternoon/evening is a day off for me and it’s the end of the week and I want to do something different and take a break. When I have a meeting at a client’s, I’m much more likely to stop and eat on the way home than I am to come home and cook something. This is generally not because I’m hungry when I’m done with the meeting. I think it’s partly just because I’m out of the house, and while I’m out, I figure I might as well eat and get it over with so I don’t have to worry about it when I get home, and partly because it gives me an excuse to do something different.

    One big issue for people who work in an office is just getting out of the office for lunch. If you bring your lunch, do you have to eat at your desk, or is there somewhere you can go to eat? The first job I had was at Princeton University Press and that was right on campus so it was nice, if you brought your lunch there were plenty of places where you could go to sit and eat and buy something to drink, and you could go out to lunch with people without having to spend money (which was essential as none of us made enough money to eat out). But I know it doesn’t work like that a lot of places.

    I think these are the kinds of things that people don’t always think of when they think about trying to save money or lose weight. So the plans they come up with might not work, but it doesn’t have anything to do with food or money.

    But I do think that thinking about stuff like that and being aware of it can ultimately help you figure things out so you’re more often spending money in a way that makes you happy and less often on things that when you’re done you kick yourself. It really is a drag spending $10 or $12 on a meal that isn’t even good.

  6. Lorrie Says:

    I love your thoughtful responses to questions on this blog. I agree that each person has to do what works for them. When I was working (before kids) I tended to eat 3 meals a day and maybe a mid afternoon snack. I almost always brought my lunch from home as I’ve always been pretty frugal. Since I’ve been a stay at home mom (about 18 years now) I tend to eat 5 or six smaller meals a day. I am about 5 pounds heavier than I was before kids, but by today’s standards, still quite slender (5 ft. 6 inches and 132 pounds). The key in what you said is “your daily calorie allotment,” because, the weight thing, in my simplistic way of understanding, still comes down to calories in versus calories out.

    By the way, I never made the granola last week, but I made the most wonderful granola bars yesterday. My son loves home made granola bars, and these were the best I ever made. The recipe is here: http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/02/thick-chewy-granola-bars/ There are lots of variations and I plan to make them again with less sugar and less chocolate chips than I used, but it is a wonderful recipe.

    I also like what you say about spending money in a way that makes you happy. Right now we are tracking every penny we spend because my husband is wanting so badly to retire. If we spend smart and figure out how much we really need, he will be able to retire in three years at the age of 62. He will probably continue to work part time and I hope to go back to work part time when my son goes off to college next fall. But, the bottom line is that in the end, by not being spendthrifts, we will enjoy a less stressful lifestyle in our later years, and that is a wonderful thing.

  7. lessisenough Says:

    Those comments yesterday were long! I think I was trying to avoid work. Glad people find them useful.

    Thanks a bunch for the granola bar recipe. I’ve been on the lookout for one because I love granola and want to be able to take it with me or eat as a snack without putting it on top of something. I’ve looked at a few different recipes but haven’t actually tried any. But Bryant has promised me more granola for later in the week so maybe I’ll see if I can make some bars out of that. The recipe looks great.

    Good luck to you and your husband figuring out a way to retire. The key to spending less is being creative and reducing spending on things you don’t really care about while continuing to spend on the things that matter to you. The two best resources I know for helping with this are the books The Tightwad Gazette and Your Money or Your Life. There are also loads of frugal living blogs, some better than others. But definitely no shortage of info.


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