centsofbalance

Cents

The first of September signifies the end of another summer.  The days are by far shorter and the nights cooler.  It also means that it’s prime harvest time for tomatoes, squash, corn and apples.

If you are planning on eating healthy and savings money, the first step is to open up Outlook or pull out your financial binder and add a menu section.

Black Bean and Corn Chili with cornbread and salad

Chicken Parm with spaghetti and broccoli

Porkchops with apple sauce and green beans with almonds

Taco salad with leftover chili; cheesey biscuits

Fried leftover spaghetti; leftover biscuits and corn

Baked chicken with corn salad and rice pilaf

Broiled Salmon with baked squash and mashed potatoes

You may find it simpler to repeat the menu monthly at first.  I have found that going on line to pull of  the menus of a favorite restaurant is very inspiring.  Remember that cooking with seasonal food, you be eating fresher and cheaper.  You may even be inspired enough to add all three daily meals and dessert.  Apple crisp is a family favorite, and apple pie can be prepared and frozen in advance so it will still come out of the oven hot.

 Now hit the local farmers’ markets for produce.  Tomatoes are so good this time of year and the easiest to put up for the winter.  It can be as easy as chopping up a bushes and adding some fresh basil then freezing it in meal size containers. Basil can be blended with olive oil and grated cheese then frozen in ice cube trays for a refreshing pesto.  Tomatoes can also be blended then have a can of tomato paste added before freezing.

 Corn needs to be blanched (Blanching is a cooking term that describes a process of food preparation where food is plunged into boiling water, removed after a brief, timed interval and finally plunged into iced water or placed under cold running water (shocked) to halt the cooking process.) Unless you have lots of freezer space, you will need to take the corn off the ear and freeze in meal sized portions. Squash can be stored in a cool place preferably in a container with sand.  Yes sand.  It is especially good for storage of root vegetables. Or you can chop and blanch then freeze. NOTE: Remember to compost the veggie scraps from meal preparation. 

 You’ll be eating fresh corn chowder and homemade meals for the winter.  

Earlier Post:

Every time I felt comfortable , I stopped paying close attention to my finances until I ended up in another financial hole that I had to dig out of.  There was nothing worse than the recurring dream that I was in a grocery store and could buy anything I wanted.  Why was that a bad dream?  Because it happened when I was at the bottom of a financial barrel and the grocery bill is the first thing to be cut…..or eliminated.  One day I had an epiphany: when I kept detailed log of expenses and mileage; prepared menus ahead of time; managed bills with consistent payments, I could stay on top of things and live better.

I think the most difficult part of developing a financial plan is anticipating the unexpected expenses, escalating costs and difficulty generating sustainable income.  I couldn’t come up with a plan by listing all of my bills and dividing by four weeks for the month because the income wasn’t there upfront to pay the bills.  The bank and utility payments all seemed to be due at the same time so moving money around to pay bills always put me behind the eight ball. Then late fees and re-connect charges would set an already tight budget into a downward spiral.  The envelop system didn’t work, nor cans and I just couldn’t seem to save anything because I didn’t have a working system.  Just one recurring, viscous cycle.

Here’s what worked. I:

(1) Developed a list of what I wanted in life
(2) Created a list of goals based on what I wanted in life (HINT: a 6-12 month plan to start so I didn’t get discouraged)
(3) Set up a schedule based on pay period to make consistent payments to utility companies (The bank won’t accept
partial payments)
(4) Made a monthly menu – start with dinners then add lunch and breakfast later.  This helped with shopping
(5) Looked for ways to cut budget.  I have basic cable, got rid of the house phone and unplug everything but the fridge

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