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Waste-Not Meat and Dairy: What to Buy and How to Utilize It

For much of the year I adhere to a relatively strict $60/week grocery budget. In general I stay within this budget even on the weeks when I need to stock up on toilet paper or cat litter, and in the fall a significant amount of the budget gets used for stocking up on things we’ll want in the winter when the budget goes down to $10/week. (Fall is also when baking supplies like flour and chocolate chips hit rock bottom prices—I bought enough flour last fall that I shouldn’t need to buy it again until August, even though I make all my own pasta and tortillas and a significant portion of our bread.)

So if I’m only spending $60/week on groceries, what do I buy? What could possibly stretch far enough to feed a family of six on only $60?

Let’s start with this qualifier—I have a freezer full of homegrown meat. I’ve got pounds of ground beef from a dairy cow that had milk fever a couple years ago (make a mental note to talk with your local dairy farmer). I’ve got probably a pig and a half wo…
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Waste Not Garden Space: prioritizing your planting for variety and enjoyment

Oh, my goodness, can it be that time of year again? I'm afraid so, everybody! I've got almost a dozen flats of planted seeds, the very first pepper plants are poking up their shy cotyledons, and pretty soon I'll be planting my flat on onion seeds as well! (I usually end up planting some sets but my goal is to be able to rely on seeds entirely one of these years... given that it's March, this won't be the year either, but a girl can dream!)

Seed shopping might be the most fun part of gardening. I know very few people who would put up a determined resistance to that assertion. I mean, sure, eating what you planted is fun too, but that fun is spread across the growing season and interspersed with a ton of hard work; but seed shopping? looking at dozens of pretty pictures, reading dozens of cute and interesting descriptions, drawing garden layout sheets with your favorite pens on your favorite graph paper? That wins. Hands down.


Now if you've been blessed with seve…

Waste Not Thy Years: don't settle for a bad career path

This is a tough one. On the one hand, my husband and I are living proof that with hard work and frugality it's possible to save money and even start a homestead on an income well below the poverty line. On the other hand, there are days when I stop and think about how much sooner our goals could have been realized, how much more stability our lives could have contained, if we'd chased down a better job for my husband years ago instead of months ago.

There are a lot of reasons why people might choose not to pursue a more lucrative position. Maybe you don't currently have any skills and the cost and effort to obtain the skills you need seems prohibitive. Maybe the last time you hunted for a job you found the process to be stressful and unpleasant, and you aren't keen on boing through it all again in the near future. Maybe you have a great relationship with your co-workers or a great enjoyment for your current employment, and feel that seeking more pay would be at the exp…

Waste Not Staples: the wonderful world of flour

White, all-purpose flour.  It's inexpensive, readily available, and foundational to a whole host of delicious foods. It's far from deeply nourishing, even with the trace amounts of nutrition the factory adds, but can a case be made for using more of it? I believe so, and I intend to make it.

Think of the foods that you buy most frequently. Not raw ingredients, mind, but finished foods. What comes to mind? For many, item one on that list would have to be bread. This includes sliced bread, hotdog and hamburger rolls, and Italian bread for spaghetti nights. Speaking of spaghetti nights, pasta is easily a close second to bread as far as regularly purchased staples of Americans. Including macaroni and cheese, egg noodles for soup, and of course spaghetti, pasta is a crucial part of even the most frugal of American diets (not to mention special occasion stuffed pastas like ravioli, pierogies and tortellini). We can't forget biscuits or their close relatives, scones and American …

The Waste-Not Plan: level 2

In "The Waste-Not Plan: level 1" I outlined concepts like the grocery snowball and other ways to spend less on food and necessities, in order to be able to build a higher level of financial independence and resilience. Important concepts included budgeting, taking advantage of economy of scale, and reducing debt, in addition to helpful tips about reducing impulse spending. Titled "Spend Less," level 1 is all about reducing how much money you need to spend each week and turning more of your income into disposable income. Level 1 consists almost exclusively of steps that anyone can take, right where they are, even if they live in an apartment without an inch of ground to call their own.

Level 2: Depend Less.
It's all about finding gaps in your self-reliance and closing them any way you can. While Level 1 works wherever you are, even a studio apartment in the Bronx, level 2 may require a move or at least a creative solution like using a community garden or land sh…

Waste Not Childhood: why my kids eat everything

A lot of parents treat picky eaters like a given. Memes about kids who eat nothing but cheerios and chicken nuggets abound, as do memes about animal crackers all over the house and kids who aren't hungry at dinner but want a gogurt twenty minutes later. "Oh, yeah, mine do that too." "Have you tried letting him put ketchup on it?" "Wow, your kid eats raisins? You're lucky, the only fruit my kid eats is Welch's Fruit Snacks."


So when people meet my kids and see their eating habits, they are... incredulous. Because my kids eat literally everything. I've had to stop them from picking up the baby's... used... animal crackers off the floor ("But we like baby slime!"). So how did this happen? Did I starve them for weeks so even the most repulsive foods became desirable? Do I put ketchup on everything? Did I hire a voodoo practitioner to pull the stuffing out of a voodoo doll with my kid's name on it, to make their stomachs feel …

A Waste-Not Lifestyle: Cultivate Multiple Motivational Streams

What makes you want to reduce waste?

There are loads of valid reasons to choose a lifestyle that utilizes all resources well. Maybe your rationale is an awareness of earth's limited resources or of endangered species threatened by human refuse or habitat loss. Maybe you have financial goals that just aren't being reached, and you want to plug the holes in your revenue stream, spending less and saving more. Maybe you want to be more self reliant and resilient, able to handle the disappearance of a few paychecks into the auto mechanic's pocket or a disruption of SNAP funds due to government shut down. Maybe your friends like to brag about how they saved money and you find the concept inspiring.

Whatever your reason for reducing waste in your household, I am on board with it 100%! There's absolutely no possible bad reason for a Waste-Not Life! But, just as an investment advisor will tell you not to put all your financial eggs in one basket, I'm here to say that in ord…