• Being Frugal,  Make Your Life Gezellig,  Minimalist Living

    So, here’s the thing…

    I’m good at lots of things.

    I can identify nearly any actor just by their voice. I can bake bread without a fuss. I am a stain-removal savant. I’ve fixed the internal working of the toilet tank on more than one occasion. I’ve even revived goldfish won at a street fair from the brink of death.

    I am not, however, good at interior decorating.

    A big part of this is my inherent cheapness; I have a very hard time justifying spending our money on decorative throw pillows and dust ruffles when we could use that money for something like, oh, I don’t know, food or rent. Even if I had no thought for the cost of things, I would still have almost no idea how to put things together and arrange a space in a way I like.

    It doesn’t help that I’ve got incredibly little patience for design magazines or blogs, particularly when “small space” living entails apartments that are at least twice the size of my own, that are then remodeled by an architect and filled with $25K of cabinetry and furniture. (That’s right; I’m looking at you, dwell magazine. You can suck it.)

    So, I’ve got decor ineptitude, congenital frugality, and some virulent anti-consumerist feelings about design resources. This is how I end up with an apartment that’s not exactly spartan, but relatively modest and simple — and with a perpetual feeling of the room being half-finished.

    I want this apartment to feel DONE, like we really live here, seriously, for good this time, no joke… and I don’t really know how to do that. I don’t even know where to start to know how to do that.

    Ideas? Suggestions for books/magazines/blogs that won’t sent me into fits of smash-the-capitalist-state rage?

  • Being Frugal,  Doing More With Less

    5 Cheap Ingredients to Get You Through a Tight Week

    5Payday arrives every other week here, and the check that’s closest to the first gets a big chunk taken out for rent. (Too big, frankly, which is part of why we’re moving.) That leaves us with one week or so per month, between having paid the rent and waiting for the next payday, that ends up being a pretty lean week. This week is one of those weeks.

    Enter Wally, the handsome man on your right.

    He’s 11, which is not ancient for an indoor cat, but it’s not youthful either. Sunday afternoon was spent in the vet’s office trying to diagnose what’s making him have a runny nose and keeping him from eating. [Short answer from the vet: “uh, I ‘unno.”]

    After leaving the vet’s office several hundred dollars lighter than when I went in, I immediately started thinking about the week ahead. While my pantry was already pretty well-stocked with my usual staples, I started to think about what else I might need for the week… and I realized I have a handful of go-to ingredients that are cheap and would to brighten up boring food (like beans and rice) without spending a lot.

  • Being Frugal,  Greenmarket Grub,  Nederlands Dat!,  Recipes,  Vegetarian Recipes

    Greenmarket Grub: Potatoes

    behold the humble potato

    I hate to hear people trash-talk potatoes. I once had a friend sniff, “I don’t consider potatoes to even be a vegetable” and I rolled my eyes and flipped her off (which, okay, I could do because I was actually online chatting with her at the time). Potatoes, in my mind, are pretty much an absolute good and I feel rather protective towards them.

    Remember a couple of years ago when food prices shot up and then suddenly staple grains were all crazy expensive, and there were protests and riots in parts of Africa and Asia over food prices? Well, that’s what globally-traded food commodities can get you.

    Rice, wheat, and maize are the top three sources of carbohydrates in the world and they’re all subject to price fluctuations, but potatoes don’t keep well enough to ship very far, so they’re not globally traded—which is great news if you live in a developing country and you’re now royally screwed because rice/wheat/maize is now too expensive for you. Potatoes can be grown by almost anyone, anywhere, in any country. So long as you have dirt and people to water said dirt, you’ll get potatoes and you’ll get fed.

    But here in the rest of the world (I hear you say), we don’t have that problem.

  • Being Frugal,  Life in Maison Gezellig

    Staples, revisited.

    fridge shotI was looking through some old posts about groceries and grocery shopping, and I unearthed this post about what I consider to be household staples — from February of 2007.

    I was really surprised to see some of the things that were a constant staple in our pantry.

    I can’t even remember the last time I bought Stella D’Oro breakfast treats, although when I wrote that list, my kid was in the middle of a long phase of loving them. And over the past couple years, the price of evaporated milk (which I used to put in my coffee) has steadily crept up until it got the point where I just gave it up and switched to whole milk instead.

    So, I’ve revised my list of kitchen staples. It’s pretty long, so click the jump tag to see it all.