Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Changing my food habits

Over the past week I’ve had another episode of chronic fatigue and been in bed.  I wrote this post but failed to publish it before getting sick.  I’m feeling much better and hoping the episode is over and my life will get back to normal once again.

I have really given my changing food needs some serious thought.  If food is going to waste before I can eat it then I’m buying too much or getting too much from the food banks.  I’m making progress toward a smaller food storage.  Smaller because I really don’t need more than just enough for one person and only enough emergency supplies for a few weeks.

I found that grocery shopping for one can be tricky.  For me its easy to buy impulsively and end up with way too much.  These days I’m buying smaller packages.  My idea is to buy just enough without finding myself in need of an extra grocery run because I’ve run out of something.  I don’t like catching the city bus just for a couple of items.

I have been spoiled by the large refrigerator that came with the house.  All the space inside looked so empty and my mind said it needed to be filled.  Its the same idea behind having a big house with lots of empty space that somehow gets filled to capacity. I used to have only a dorm size fridge which was almost the perfect size for me.  I’m saving spare change in a jar to eventually buy a small compact size with a drawer freezer at the bottom.   Not as small as a dorm size but more like efficiency apartment size.

During a recent grocery stop with my sister-in-law I started repeating a mantra to myself “there is only me, buy for one” as I made my choices.  It was a great time to put my new buy less idea to work.  I spotted a quart size olive oil at a reduced close out price on the shelf.  In the past I would have picked up more than one to store away for anyone who wanted any.  Happily, I resisted the urge to purchase it and picked up an 8 ounce bottle at regular price.  I repeated over and over again to myself, a bargain is not a bargain if it won’t be used.  That little bottle was a small victory for a big change in my thinking.  Not only did it cut back on the amount I spent but the smaller size will take up less space in my food storage.  I’m more likely to eat all of it before it gets too old and finds its way into the trash

I did buy one cucumber, one pepper, one tomato juice, celery, parsley, lemon juice, one garlic, and one small bag of tiny frozen salad shrimp.  I looked for fresh parsley but there wasn’t any so I settled for dehydrated in a can.  All these purchases were small victories too.  I wasn’t thinking about putting anything in the freezer.  I wasn’t thinking about canning anything.  I bought just what I needed.   Much smaller amounts means less out of pocket and less storage space required.  Everything fit into two bags.

My SIL was buying new pans so we went to that department.  I spotted some single person sized ceramic pots at a reduced  price of $2.50 each.  So cute and bright red color.  I bought two for experimenting.  I’m hoping that using a small pot instead of a larger one will cut down on the amount I cook.  These are 1 pint pots but the pots behind them are the ones I had used for years.  The old ones are one gallon and two gallon size.  The new pots look like toys next to the old ones.

Yes, I know cooking extra to put in the freezer does save time and money.  I’ll go back to that eventually.  For now I just want to break my habit of over abundance.   Cooking too much at one time can lead to eating too much or wasting it because its boring to eat the same meal several days in a row.

On the way home we stopped at the new farmer’s market.  Yea!  Its just a short distance from my house and open every Saturday morning.  There was only one person selling that day.  Maybe more will come later.  He had large slicing tomatoes selling two for a dollar.  At first I thought it would be great to buy a half bushel for canning.  I resisted that thought and bought only two tomatoes.  I don’t have air conditioning and canning sure does heat up the house.

I’m curious, does anyone else use smaller pans to reduce the amount you cook?  Or do you just cook less in the ones you already own?  How do you resist the urge to over stock your food?

39 comments on “Changing my food habits

  1. T
    June 9, 2018

    What my downsized life looks like so far:

    unlimited US calls/texts simple cellphone for @$27 a month; few possessions so very cheap to insure, just over $100 a year; simplified cooking so I don’t need gadgets, pans galore; free internet via the library; mostly free activities ( mostly creative ) to socialize.

    My monthly rent/water/trash charges are $200 more than the insurance/ service charge and property tax on owning the condominium, so factor in repairs and maintenance and it’s exactly the same except now I have no liability and no potential large bills from storm damage or HOA decisions or mistakes.

    Electricity is around a fifth the cost of bills here, smaller place, no high ceilings. Internet had crept up to $82 a month so almost $1000 a year saved there, over $2000 saved on electricity.

    My latest vehicle- a small truck- is less economical on gas miles, but I don’t drive many and it is more durable and sits above general flood levels in this area, and it is cheap to insure. But I will be monitoring for the rest of the year. It does seem it will hold its resale value, unlike most vehicles. I wasn’t expecting to get anything for my broken car but the mechanic gave me $700.

    I’ve been very busy with the move and work so I have been eating a bit more also buying food prepared and a few times eating out things I could prepare myself, so I can go back to my frugal plans on that.

    So it all feels a bit more positive financially in terms of getting back on track with my budget plan.

    • Anita
      June 9, 2018

      The lower expenses is great news! Don’t fret over the eating out or being frugal. You’ll get back to it once you settle down into the new place. Sometimes we gotta take a loss in order to move forward. I’m glad you won’t be stressed by that HOA any longer. City ordinances, like where I live, are sometimes just as bothersome as HOA rules. I really am excited for you and your new adventure. BTW, I got the get well card. Thank you.

  2. Lilli
    June 3, 2018

    I find as we are cooking and preparing healthier foods, we just don’t eat as much. I am having a terrible problem with food being wasted. I have too many leftovers and, they are ending up in the trash can. I don’t have money to waste like that. I am going to clean out the fridge tomorrow. I am changing things up. This week, we aren’t having anything but sandwiches. I am going to make a meal plan on what needs to be cooked from the bottom of the freezer. I am going to make smaller size meals. We are going to have simpler meals. Being home full-time compared to working 18 hr days is different. Cooking at home and not eating prepared food is different. Not having 3 teenagers in the house is different. When they are home, that is different too. One cooking this and the other making something else. Yep, I am taking control of my kitchen. My weight is a problem. My stress is a problem. Anita, sometimes I feel like I am exaggerating things but then I read your posts and you always make me feel better. I hope you are feeling better. Have you always had this issue? Did it get worse when you got older? Does diet help ?

    • Anita
      June 6, 2018

      Thank you Lilli, lots of us have much in common. I feel as if my problems don’t have an end so they won’t ever stop. Then I read the comments to know others have issues too. I am not alone.

      I was born a sickly child with a heart problem. Grandma Mama told me I was in the hospital so often and got so many shots that when I saw anyone dressed in white coming near me I started screaming. The chronic fatigue actually started in the 80s. Back then it was called yuppie flu because so many young middle class people came down with the symptoms. No one knows the actual cause and very, very, very few doctors believe the symptoms are real. Imagine coming down with a bad case of flu. You ache, have chills, your temperature is 101 and you just feel awful. Now imagine the doctor tells you the symptoms are all in your head. You aren’t sick and you are imagining the symptoms. Now really, how can anyone imagine a 101 or 102 fever? Over the years I’ve learned to treat each episode the same as coming down with the flu. I go to bed until it passes. I do know that each episode is brought on by doing too much and becoming exhausted. How long each episode lasts depends on how exhausted I get to trigger it. I sound like a hypochondriac or a chronic complainer when I tell people every few weeks that I have the flu but if it happens, it happens.

  3. Margie in Toronto
    May 31, 2018

    I have an apt. sized fridge (5′ high and 28″ wide) with a decent freezer compartment in the top and I find that this is more than enough for just me. I have a number of containers that I use to group things together – fruit & yogurt in one, cheese & cold meat in another – that sort of thing and that also keeps things organized and easy to reach.
    My biggest issue was in buying too much produce and then not being able to eat it all before it went bad. I have really been making an effort over the past couple of weeks to reign this in – and it helps that with the hot weather I eat a salad almost daily now – but still, I’m being careful.
    I went through my kitchen cupboards & pantry yesterday – switching things around. I am now eating a much more low carb diet (and especially strict for the next 4 months) so certain items have been relegated to the top cupboard of the pantry – and other things have made their way into the kitchen for easier access.
    And since things are much more tight financially these days I’m also really thinking twice about what I really need – and where I’m going to put my money. I will spend more on organic dairy and grass fed/pasture raised meat and stick to the No Frills store for fruit & veg and a few staples like tea. I am also being very careful about not missing out on opportunities to collect more loyalty points!
    I do have a couple of smaller than normal saucepans and yes, I do use them – I really only have one large saucepan and then a couple of average sized ones. Both my frying pans are on the smaller size – I can’t really lift anything too heavy so this limits the size of items as well.
    I do all my shopping via transit (mostly the subway) or by foot with my bundle buggy so even though there are no shops outside my building it’s fairly easy for me to have access to a great variety of grocery stores, markets & specialty shops – and I happen to love grocery shopping so that helps as well. It can’t be easy when you don’t have anything within easy reach so I understand the tendency to stock up.
    I’ll still purchase things like cans of tuna, salmon & sardines which can be used for years to come – and like you – as long as I have a few weeks worth of emergency supplies then I’m fine.

    • Anita
      June 6, 2018

      Margie I think lots of us have the tendency to buy too much because the sale strategies have gotten stronger and we all fall victim to them. Each time we figure out how we are being tricked they change to something new. Thinking small is helping me safe money. I don’t mind shopping but I do hate putting it away when I get home. Well smaller purchases mean less to put away. Yea!

      I don’t usually pay much attention to loyalty points anymore. I found the problems using the points so irritating that I just stopped trying. The Kroger company is the worst offender because the points do not add up together. Each store keeps the points separated from other stores. Using the points means using them only at the store where earned. For example I would earn points for gas which I would let my daughter use since I don’t have a car. Well the points earned at my Kroger would not work at her Kroger gas station. She would have to travel all the way to my Kroger to buy gas using the points. Then the speedway gas station near her sells gas at the same discounted amount without points as the Kroger with points so why bother with them.

  4. Kathi
    May 31, 2018

    I am also guilty of buying too much at one time. or I THINK I will make something, and never do. So, not a tremendous amount of waste, but even a bit is too much.
    I used to be very exacting on what I spent at the grocery store. Now. yes I have a list, but I get the OHH, SEE THAT!! thing going and the cart ends up full. Also a great deal of NOT healthy foods. Thanks for the reminder anita. I NEED to PLAN better, and use up what I have before I purchase more. sigh. I will add I would LOVE to have a fisherman in the family. Yes, with healthy eating in mind I want more REAL fish. Alas, the cost is just ridiculous. I also need a trip to the farmers market but will need to remember. THINK SMALL. just the two of us.

    • Anita
      June 6, 2018

      Yes, the stores are getting better at grabbing our money. The temptations are EVERYWHERE saying buy me, buy me. I think there are subliminal messages hidden in the music playing overhead. Stores are like obstacle courses with all kinds of tempting things between us and the checkout line. There may be 40 checkout lanes but only one of them open.

      Kathi does your church have a bulletin board? Put up a request for a member who fishes to please share. Avid fishermen are always looking for someone to take their excess. My brother catches way more than he eats so he shares with a couple of families at church too.

      • Kathi
        June 6, 2018

        GREAT idea!!! Will deffinately check that out. Thanks Anita.
        I am having trouble with lettuce. I will buy a head. use it once or twice, and then, well my innards say ENOUGH with the lettuce. and it liquifies in the fridge. sigh.

        • Anita
          June 6, 2018

          Kathi, If you are buying the heads of iceberg lettuce then you are buying the wrong kind. Switch to a much smaller variety so there is less of it. Baby bibb or curly leaf are small. They are what I call personal size lettuce. The price might be a bit more but there won’t be waste so it can’t be anymore expensive than throwing away half a head of iceberg.

  5. catherine young
    May 29, 2018

    I’m sorry that the chronic fatigue kicked in. Hoping you kick it back out.

    I have small, big and medium sized pans. There are occasions for using all of them. I don’t buy much anymore. I shop the house and ask around and usually get something to fit my needs and most of my wants

    This month was no spend for me. I try to do one twice a year but this year trying to do 4. This is my second. Only spend on bills, emergencies, what’s truly necessary. Of course, every deal I want flashed into my face this month.

    Did a Memorial Day bbq pork roast cookout and had everyone bring everything else though I cooked a lot of what they brought. I’m still stockpiling deals but I am making sure I use what have. It’s a lot of work to track the stuff.

    There is a sweet spot for stock piling and using all you have. I’m working on it. Hope you get there too

    • Anita
      June 6, 2018

      Yes, feeling better thank you.

      You are right, there are occasions for using larger pots. My problem was I didn’t have any small ones at all. Cooking a tiny amount in a really large pot didn’t work for me. I felt a large pot needed a large amount of food in it which was way too much for one person. The new small pots are better.

      I’m looking for a new sweet spot between stocking for one and cooking for one instead of for a whole neighborhood. It takes time to get used to change.

  6. T
    May 29, 2018

    Hope you are feeling better now?

    I will be on a tighter budget than anticipated next few weeks as my car just broke; impossible to live in Houston without one so…

    I have got rid of most of my pans/dishes etc. I can improvise, most styles of cooking I rarely use anyway, and baking or roasting just increases a/c costs and heat in the home.

    I have been using slow cooker, and I have an egg poacher- love poached eggs! and I think I can ‘poach’ half roma tomatoes in there too, maybe sliced mushrooms, so a cheap favorite healthy breakfast.

    Trying not to move anything superfluos to my new tiny apartment! -that includes my son : )

    • Anita
      June 6, 2018

      Hee, hee, apartment with no room for son sounds really tiny. You may find that after you move you’ll want to get rid of some stuff you take with you. I did. Stuff from the old house just didn’t fit the new house. Sorry to hear about the car.

      Yes, I’m feeling better. I can’t seem to prevent the episodes so I just ride them out.

      • T
        June 6, 2018

        yes, I plan to get rid of even more but it can be sorted later, papers books and such.

        Had to buy new vehicle this week as mine died, have started a new kind of downsizing, let’s call it ‘disaster downsizing’: finding out that the two insurances I pay for did not properly cover me for damages during Harvey I am returning to renting ( first floor, hopefully above flood water; I bought an old truck; and I have taken out basic renter insurance just to cover the replacement of furniture/ clothes and my liability if someone is injured at my place. Ie. I am minimizing my losses whilst living in a disaster zone, even if I lose everything it won’t be so bad now.

        • Anita
          June 7, 2018

          I think you came up with an excellent plan for just in case. Knowing one will suffer minimum losses can give peace of mind.

          • T
            June 7, 2018

            Thanks Anita, it’s true. I can only take so many ‘hits’ like last year…

            I’m looking forward to being away from HOA too, don’t like their decisions impacting me financially.

  7. craftytadpole
    May 29, 2018

    Making just enough for the two of us is something we struggle with as well. We both are use to cooking for large families and its a habit that dies hard. We do plan our meals to use up left overs but we still waste way too much. We will keep trying though.

    • Anita
      June 6, 2018

      Just curious. What size pots are you cooking in? Big family sized ones you used for years? Could you be like me and think the big pots need to be filled? My new small pots are helping me cut back on the amount I cook because less fits into it. Keep the big pots for when you expect lots of family but use smaller ones when its just the two of you. I hope I explained that right.

      • craftytadpole
        June 6, 2018

        Good point. I’ve been using the same pots for years so maybe it is time to change my perspective on what is “enough.”

  8. Pal
    May 28, 2018

    Until you get a new, smaller fidge, fill jugs with cold water and put them in your fridge. It takes more energy to keep an empty fridge cold than a full one.
    The cold water will take up room and help keep the refidgerator cold.
    You can also take up extra space in the freezer the same way.
    Bonus: if you lose electricity, all that cold water/ice will extend the time that your food will be kept cold and not spoil.

    • Anita
      May 28, 2018

      Good idea but I don’t have any jugs and can’t think of anything that I use that comes in a jug or bottle. At the moment I have only one empty quart juice bottle. It would take a lot of jugs to fill up this extra large refrigerator. The idea may be good for other readers though.

  9. Shell
    May 27, 2018

    I use a very small skillet to cook eggs , since I am the only one that likes them .I too, have a bad habit of stockpiling too much.

  10. Marybeth C
    May 27, 2018

    Since there are 4 of us here and usually extra friends mouths, I can’t use small pans. They do look like kids toys. Good luck. I hate food waste so I am all for trying something new to avoid it.

  11. KAYTHEGARDENER
    May 27, 2018

    I was just diagnosed with carpal tunnel in both hands, so I now have to wear wrist splints that leave only my finger tips free. Some friends & neighbors wore them for months or years, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
    But it is making me think about some overdue changes in my lifestyle– I will never be 40 again, but I would like to make it to 90+ years!!

    • Anita
      May 27, 2018

      Oh, sorry to hear about the carpel tunnel. I know its painful because my daughter complained about it for a long time. She recently had surgery and is happy with the result. Now she’s been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Pains again but she gives herself shots everyday which are helping. I would like to see 100+

  12. Donna
    May 27, 2018

    I have the problem of buying too much too. I am currently in the process of eating up everything in the freezer and cupboards after losing a turkey to being wayyyy outdated. There are only two of us so why do I buy so much and then it gets lost in the back of the freezer. I am also working on creating a weekly eating plan based on what I have and eventually what is on sale. No farmers market here but they have something called Bountiful Baskets you can sign up for. It is fresh veggies and fruit. I have not tried it yet because I eat Keto and not sure I could eat what is provided. Good luck on finding your fridge.

    • Anita
      May 27, 2018

      Buying too much seems to be a common problem for lots of us these days. I keep reminding myself *I* am the one in control of my purchases and my eating. I like it.

  13. Sondra
    May 27, 2018

    Hi Anita. I had the same problem as you and always had way too much food and supplies for one person. Over the last year I have used up and/or eaten a lot of this inventory. (Amazing what space it opens up in a small apartment). My new motto for packaged goods is “Eat then repeat”. So I always have one of what I eat plus 1 in the cupboard waiting its turn. When I finish the first I watch for a sale to replenish the repeat that became the main one. This rule might be varied if I find a really good sale but I won’t buy more than 3 of anything unless I consistently eat it every day or every other day. (Even though I love pasta I’m still working on last year’s noodle purchases). I also don’t buy mega sizes with the only exceptions being dish soap or toilet tissue, and that is subject to a beyond excellent price. I always write the date on items I use or eat so I now have a pretty good idea how long it takes me to finish something (an idea I got from you thank you!). This certainly has led me to lower my grocery bills, have more space and do less shopping since I only buy from my list created by watching for a year what I ate or used. Produce I buy as needed but only a week’s worth at a time, or less. No more buying without a plan or thinking maybe this time I will use it up or like it enough to finish it. Life is simpler.

    • Anita
      May 27, 2018

      Hmm…. I like that; eat then repeat. Good motto. I’m going to keep that in my mind as I shop from now on. Thank you for sharing with us.

  14. Delorise
    May 27, 2018

    I read an article recently that stated it was better to not have a too full refrigerator– something about more energy efficient if there is good air flow. So I feel better now when I open it and there’s extra space. I recently responded to your blog on how much I have on hand for emergencies–well I did a rethink on that–I am cleaning out and passing on my extras to family. It is a very liberating feeling to not see all those cans and packages—-if some major disaster occurs I would be better served to go further south to family. A few weeks supply makes me feel save but not overwhelmed. I have also reconsidered my shopping habits and no longer buy in excessive quantities. If I do have extra I have a friend that is glad to take it. So much enjoy your blog– you motivate me to reconsider how I do things and be a better steward in my life. Hope the fatigue stays away.

    • Anita
      May 27, 2018

      Yes! Liberating. Safe but not overwhelmed. I’m really happy when I know others feel the same way as me. Thank you too for sharing your changes with us. Today I’m feeling much better. I even cooked a little (using food storage) to get my strength back.

  15. Linda in NE
    May 27, 2018

    It’s hard to get used to cooking less & stocking up too much. I’m trying to get things used up before adding more. My husband is a big part of the problem. He’s addicted to planting fruit trees and thinks I should keep canning & canning & canning. We still have plenty of canned fruit from two years ago, and as a diabetic I don’t eat canned fruit or fruit in general because nothing shoots my blood sugar & weight up like fruit does. So now I’m having him eat canned fruit as part of just about every meal and the frozen apples he stockpiles in the freezer get made into apple crisp he gets to eat for breakfast EVERY darned day. And then there’s the fish. He loves to fish and keeps bringing home more all the time. Even with giving quite a bit away it still piles up in the freezer. I don’t like fish that has been frozen and I’m sick & tired of cooking it. I truly wish he would get over thinking he’s going to starve. 🙂 Good luck in your efforts to down size & simplify your food storage.

    • Anita
      May 27, 2018

      Maybe he’s not thinking about starving? Maybe he just doesn’t want to waste food. Heck, that’s PART of the reason I kept so much food even when I ate regularly. I didn’t want to waste it. Like so many of us older generation we were taught waste not want not and it doesn’t seem to go away. Grandma Mama taught me wasting food was sinful. Its taken me a very long time to ignore that advice.

      My first thought about the fruit trees was maybe he should set up a fruit stand in the yard or maybe at a farmer’s market. Maybe set some outside with a sign that reads “free fruit” if you aren’t allowed to sell in your yard. Heck, if you lived near me I’d be watching for a simple cardboard sign in the window saying which fruit is ready to pick and I’d be a regular customer. You might as well get some income out of all his hard work planting and tending fruit trees. OR, donate some to a local food bank. Fruit donations are rare at food banks.

      The same with the fish. Have you seen the cost of fish lately? Outrageous! You could sell husband’s fish as fresh caught, no freezing. My brother fishes too. He goes at least a couple times a week and always shares with me. He knows my weekly limit and only gives me that much. I freeze it myself. His shared fish has saved me lots of money.

      When I eat fruit I always eat a little cheese with it so my sugar levels don’t spike. Somehow the cheese balances the sugar so it enters the blood more evenly over a longer period of time. A handful of nuts does the same thing.

  16. marykusz
    May 27, 2018

    HI: we bought a “european” sized refrigerator (tall narrow and counter depth) for the 2 of us 12 years ago. It has a bottom freezer (small but perfect for the 2 of us)
    and plenty of refrigerator storage for both of us. It also is very efficient from the electricity point of view. However I am able to walk to the supermarket to buy food. I applaud your resolutions! Every now and then I come across something in the house which is definitely out of date and it is wasted!
    thanks for your great blog! Keep posting!

    • Anita
      May 27, 2018

      That sounds exactly like the refrigerator I want. What brand is it? Which store sold it? Maybe they still sell them. Have you had any mechanical problems over the years? I’m happy to see a farmer market open so close. Its only for the summer but I’ll take it.

      • marykusz
        May 27, 2018

        Hi Anita
        The one we bought is not made anymore
        But LG makes the equivalent
        You would need to look on line
        first
        Mary

        • Anita
          May 27, 2018

          Thanks, that gives me a start on what to search. I’ll start online but maybe a local store carries LG brand so I can see them in person.

  17. Jane
    May 27, 2018

    Good plan on reducing your food purchases. I am buying for 2 and spend way more than I should. I will ponder your mantra…thank you!

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This entry was posted on May 27, 2018 by in COOKING FOR ONE OR TWO, DIABETES AND FOOD BANKS, DOWNSIZING MY LIFE, FRUGAL DIABETIC.

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