Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A foodie has hijacked this personal finance blog

Nothing major to report, at least not financially speaking. For us, February is a month of working, budgeting, planning, and finding ways to snag a little treat every now and then! I have some big news to share, news that affects our finances, but I need to wait a few more weeks before I spill the beans.

No, I'm not pregnant!

I'm still trying to figure out how to get good food for less money. Last week, we spent ~$125 on groceries; this week we tried shopping at Trader Joe's instead of Whole Foods and spent roughly the same (although I think we ended up with more food, since TJs sells pre-packaged fruits and veggies - so instead of getting to select how much produce you want, you end up with a pack of two peppers, or a pack of three bok choy, or a pack of three zucchini, and so on and so forth). TJs seems to offer fewer gluten free/soy free/corn free options than WF, but it does sell a good selection of organic ingredients. The meat and cheese prices were definitely lower at TJs than at WF.

I don't think I should stress out too much about the total, though, especially because we've been really good about cooking at home and not going out to eat. We used to go out several times a week, and now it's more like two or three times a month at most. So that's money saved.

Trent and I have planned a date for Valentine's Day. We haven't decided on a specific place yet, mainly because it's tough to find an affordable restaurant that's transparent about its ingredients. We might go to the sushi place down the street or perhaps try Bonefish Grill, which apparently has a gluten free menu.

Meanwhile, Trent took me to a local sweet shop to pick out some Valentine's Day goodies, and here is what I ended up with:

(I had way more lollipops than this, but a certain young individual thought it was appropriate to "borrow" them. That's right - I'm in a lollipop tug-of-war with a preschooler.)

The lollipops are made by Yummy Earth, which specializes in organic, all-natural, gluten-free and corn-free sweets. These lollipops are the best I've ever tasted.

And since we're on the subject of food, what the heck - here's tonight's dinner: white bean chicken chili a la The Pioneer Woman:

What I love about this chili is that it's spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. It's just enough to clear the sinuses!

Looking for Freedom isn't meant to be a food blog, but it's starting to reflect the fact that our frugal(ish) living means we spend an awful lot of time in the kitchen. :-) My life right now is all about working, playing, cooking, and looking forward to some exciting future opportunities.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Don't forget to floss!

A few days ago, Trent came down with a toothache. At first it was a mere twinge. "I'll wait," he thought, "and maybe it will go away." He popped a few Tylenol and kept it to himself. But the pain worsened, and when I noticed him wincing, he finally had to admit what was going on.

The dentist took an x-ray and announced that he would need a root canal plus a cap on one of his back teeth. Total estimated cost: $1800. "But I could buy a brand-new Apple laptop with that kind of money," Trent told her. "Isn't there another option?"

The other option was to simply pull the tooth, keep the wound clean, and live on liquids for two days while his gums heal up. Total cost: $108.

You can guess which option he chose. We don't even have $1800 in our emergency fund right now. Currently, he's downing nutrient shakes and water and dousing his mouth with saltwater at regular intervals.

I gripe whenever I have to pay $150 for a visit to the doctor, but in truth, the dentist is always more expensive. Always. They're forever finding another problem, another issue: a cavity, worn-down enamel, a chip, a little bleeding along the gumline. Every problem seems to warrant immediate attention, and every procedure comes complete with paralyzing sticker shock. Who can afford it? Whose emergency account can keep up with it? I don't understand why it has to cost so much when it's clear that the majority of the population can't afford such expensive treatments.

What's most frustrating is that we're pretty careful about our teeth. I brush twice daily, floss twice daily (yes, using the proper method), and rinse twice daily with enamel-restoring mouthwash. I don't drink soda or eat much candy. And yet the dental drama never ends!

Monday, February 1, 2010

In a battle between my hair and dinner...

...dinner wins.

I've just realized that my scheduled appointment for partial highlights and a trim is not in the budget and will need to be canceled. I'm sure my stylist would try to persuade me otherwise, but that's the way it is. (If you don't have highlights, don't get them... The constant upkeep is a pain in the neck and a blow to the wallet.) We're tightening our belts and putting aside the debit card.

The thing is, I'd rather spend my money on good food. This week's food budget was $125; at the register, we came in at $123.15 - still quite steep, but at least we stuck to the plan and to our list. We got excellent deals on apples, bananas, and most of the veggies. The price of the broccoli and the organic, free-range chicken seemed a bit steep. We'll see if we can lower our total during next Sunday's grocery run. My goal right now is to make it through the week without going to the store again.

Tonight, I'm making dinner: baked rosemary chicken with potatoes, celery, and carrots, plus cornbread for the boys.

The cornbread is from a Bob's Red Mill mix. Just add butter or oil and eggs or flaxseed (I like the nuttiness of the flaxseed) to the mix and bake it for about half an hour. Here's what's left a day later when you share your home with an adult male and a bread-loving preschooler:

The potatoes are steaming up. I leave them in the pan on low heat for about 45 minutes until they're soft, then crank up the heat so they get crispy on the outside:

And then here are the carrots and broccoli, for extra flavor, texture, fiber, and nutrition:

I add them to the potatoes right at the very end. I like my veggies crunchy.

Last but not least, here's the chicken, sprinkled with salt, pepper, and rosemary. I made enough so that we can eat another helping for tomorrow's lunch:

Mmmm. (It was really good!)