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To Make It Easier

Time is valuable. So is energy. Here are a few things that might give you a little more of both precious and limited resources.

First: 40 Meals in 4 Hours. The page has links to a ton of recipes you assemble ahead of time and pop in the freezer. The night before, you defrost whichever meal you'd like in the fridge, then dump it in the crockpot in the morn. I've never managed all 40 meals, but have put together a half dozen or so. Best of all, the meals make enough for four, so every recipe I complete gives me TWO whole meals. On top of the time savings, it saves cash.

Second: Homemade Yogurt in Mason Jars. Don't skip this link because you assume homemade = huge investment of time. Sure, making things at home can take time, but weigh that time against the cost saved. And this is so, so easy. It costs me less than half as much to make it at home, and not much time.

Third: Make soup. You can make it as simple or as complicated as you like. One of the household favorites is "Refrigerator Soup," which consists of all the little leftovers and almost-too-old veggies in the fridge. Our most recent one included some meatloaf, a cup of tomato sauce, some broccoli, a few getting-squishy grape tomatoes, and half a cup of diced onion that hadn't made it into the last recipe. I tossed it in a pot with chicken broth and some lentils (a good go-to for added protein and fiber), and served it with a sprinkling of cheese on top. Best of all, there was enough to freeze for another meal.

Fourth: Know the value of your time and make decisions accordingly. In this instance, I use my average hourly income. Let's say it's $20 an hour. If I decide to buy a fast-food meal for my son and I, the low-end cost of the food would be around $12, the cost of my fuel to get it around $1, and the cost of my time to drive to and from the place around $5. Thus the meal costs me $18, or nearly an hour of my life. If a homemade meal costs me $5, and takes 30 minutes to prepare, that's $15. If I made that choice 10 times per month, I have saved an hour and half of my precious time. Best of all, Dev often cooks with me, so I not only get to spend time with him, he learns a valuable life skill.

If I make $10 an hour, it costs me almost 108 minutes of my life to pay for the fast-food meal, and a mere 90 minutes to cover the at-home meal. Ten choices a month means and "extra" three hours a month, and a savings of at least $30 cash in hand. And if $30 doesn't sound like much, you've never been on a tight budget. $30 is a week's worth of low-budget groceries, almost enough for cellphone service payment, a month's worth of cheap pet food, the difference between having internet service, car insurance, adequate heat, of shoes without holes in them.

Seriously, I know what I'm talking about. I once had to feed my son, myself, and our dog on about $150 a month. No one went hungry.

For us writers, these offer a way to stop beating ourselves up for time "taken" from family and friends. A meal needing ten minutes of preparation is no less valuable to family time and offspring than a meal that requires 60 minutes. Use that other fifty minutes--guilt free--to finish a chapter, revise an outline, read an article, or socialize with fellow writers.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 7th, 2014 10:13 pm (UTC)
Wonderful ideas. Thank you! I need to prepare and freeze more meals in advance.
Jan. 7th, 2014 10:19 pm (UTC)
I am in love with the freezer-to-crockpot thing. Four nights a week, I don't get home from teaching until after nine. Being able to eat a warm and healthy dinner with almost zero prep is a blessing!
Jan. 7th, 2014 10:24 pm (UTC)
One of my biggest problems with dinner is that I need to eat almost immediately (and take med) when I arrive home. Having something ready in the crockpot would solve that problem for me.

And, because of kids' varying schedules this quarter/semester, there is at least one of them home every day and could toss something in. Perfect!
Jan. 7th, 2014 10:34 pm (UTC)
Yay! Glad it's helpful!
Casey Blair
Jan. 8th, 2014 03:39 am (UTC)
YES. I usually spend a couple hours every Sunday making a couple of giant meals that I can re-heat for the rest of the week, but maybe I can streamline that even more.

Complete agreement on the value of time. When I first started my new job after moving, I went to Panera a fair amount for lunch -- and Panera's not terribly expensive, but the money I spent eating there 5 meals/week could have paid for my groceries/home-cooked food for the whole week, and taken fewer hours and less gas. I wised up pretty quick.

I'm not sure I'm quite up to making my own yogurt, but that certainly bears further investigation. Thanks!
Jan. 8th, 2014 04:47 am (UTC)
I do the big-cooking thing, too, often so my son can take leftovers to work during the week. The crockpot meals do make that easier, because the recipes would usually feed 4-5 people, giving me two "extra" meals at a time!

The yogurt is dead easy. Way easier than pie. :)
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Blair MacGregor

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