Category Archives: Administrative

Giving Thanks

 

Happy Thanksgiving dear readers! I am so thankful for each and every one of you.

I sincerely hope that your Thanksgiving day is filled with good food, friends, family, and stories. Laughter and hugs and sore stomachs from wayyyyy too much to eat.

For some light reading to avoid the football madness or post-turkey nap, see my post from last year on how to do Thanksgiving under $20 , or read about the history of Thanksgiving and why it should be “thanks-giving”.

Or check out some more awesome food bloggers’ Thanksgiving ideas and leftover uses:

Chewingthefat Thanksgiving daily
TheSimpleDollar leftovers roundup
FeedYourSoul2 dessert roundup

(This is not permission to ignore your family in favor of your smart phone or tablet! Pay attention to what your Aunt Edna is saying, you never know how many more holidays you have.)

In honor of that train of thought, some things I am thankful for this year:

  • My amazing, supportive family, who love me from far away
  • My amazing, supportive S.O. who keeps me going daily
  • Finally getting a house & a yard! (renting. but still.)
  • Puppies!
  • Friends who keep in touch through big life changes
  • H Mart. Y’all not from Denver, you just don’t know.
  • Flowers
  • A car that keeps working, despite my lack of attention
  • Jobs that are mostly rewarding and fun
  • Cool people with good stories
  • Board games
  • All the lovely people who have read, shared, supported this blog!

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What are you thankful for?

SNAP Challenge Week Lessons

 

So today (Tuesday) marks one week of the SNAP Challenge for me. (If you don’t know what the SNAP Challenge is or why I’m talking about it, take a peek at my earlier post).

The week went very closely according to plan. I ended up having so much leftover from the soup I made that I did not use the can of tuna. I had coffee 6 out of 7 days, but only one cup. And I only needed an extra boost from green tea on three days.

FOOD BREAKDOWN

Here is a breakdown of all the food purchased and consumed throughout the week:

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 7.59.07 PM

If I calculated out the exact costs for the week, it would be quite a bit less than my target, as I still had 2 eggs, 1/2 bag broccoli, all but 4 tbsp margerine, plenty of garlic salt, 6 slices turkey bacon, half a jar of peanut butter, a few slices of bread, some rice, potatoes and lentils, and 6 bags of oatmeal left! Even with the full price added in, I had $2.44 left to spend at the end of the week.

There were only a few cooking-intensive meals, then several meals consisting of leftovers. Peanut butter sandwiches were always a go-to in case I didn’t want leftovers for lunch and dinner, or just needed a hearty snack throughout the day.

SNAP MEAL PLAN

Here is a break-down of all the meals I ate this week:

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 7.57.01 PM

This ‘diet’ may actually have been for the better, as I was eating less meat and calories in general, and slowly cutting down on caffeine. I actually felt quite healthy throughout the majority of the week, though energy spikes and troughs as well as a growling tummy was more frequent.

LESSONS LEARNED

Overall, this week was not as difficult as I imagined it being, but I recognized some significant advantages:

1. I have a fully functional kitchen. This includes a microwave, stove-top, oven, refrigerator, and freezer. I have ample containers in which to store excess cooked food to be eaten again later. This all helps in stretching the food you do have.

2. I do not mind the process of cooking, eating leftovers, or the same meal multiple times. In fact I enjoy those things. There are tons of people who do not like one or all three. Being able to cook, even simple methods, is limitlessly helpful in stretching your food dollars versus convenience foods. And being willing to cook large batches and re-eat that meal later is also a huge money saver.

3. I have access to fresh, affordable produce and very reasonably priced staple food items. Many, too many, people do not have access to fresh produce, the ability to stop at four different stores to price-compare, or to pick up 2 cucumbers for $1 just because they’re on sale, they look fresh, and you want a snack.

4. I have been in the practice of planning, shopping, and cooking for myself on a very tight budget for a very long time. Many people who end up on SNAP due to unfortunate circumstances have no practice with coupons, budgeting, or meal planning. They may not know how to stretch a dollar because they never had to before. This just adds to the overall burden.

Over the next few posts I will be posting the recipes of meals I cooked during the challenge, so stay tuned!

 

Final Thoughts

I decided I am going to buy a duplicate of all the foods I had this week, and donate them to a local food pantry so others in my community can be fed. I am also hosting a food drive at my work place until the end of the month.

I hope you took something away from this, and if you’re not inspired to take on the challenge yourself, at least you’re more aware of the daily struggles millions of your fellow Americans face, and know more about how you can help.

 

 

 

**UPDATE: All SNAP Meal Recipes listed below:

The Budget Epicurean on vacation

 

Hello blogosphere!

I know you will be so disappointed to hear, but the Budget Epicurean will be taking a short hiatus. But you may say, taking vacations is not frugal! Nay nay. Vacations help keep one inside the budget I will retort. Planned or spontaneous, taking a break from the day-to-day can help to relax, recharge, and keep the frugal fires burning.

Sometimes, we all stumble, despite our best intentions. This is usually due to stress and being overwhelmed. Whether it’s family, friends, work, or personal life, when you are too busy to think straight you are more prone to mistakes. You give in and have a jumbo muffin, latte, fruit, another latte, and a doughnut, just to get through the morning. You forget to pack lunch and have to buy a cheeseburger and fries in the car on the way to a meeting. You didn’t prepare and need to purchase travel-sized things at an inflated price. You’re just too tired to cook, so looks like it’s pizza for the fifth time this month.

You also sometimes need a break from being frugal to avoid “frugal fatigue”. This is what happens when you are being good and sticking to a budget, making your own food, not eating out or going out often, and all in all being frugal for a long time. It’s like cheating on a diet, the more extreme you begin the faster your willpower wears out. Frugality is a way of life to be sure. If you go from upper-middle-class lifestyle of eating out constantly, new toys, new clothes, trips, etc. and jump right into a cabin in the wilderness where you grow and shoot all your own food, you will break in about a week I’d guess.

To avoid frugal fatigue, it is perfectly fine to ease yourself in, and take mini-breaks. When you save an extra $100 in one month, go ahead and allow yourself one Starbucks run. If you make your own laundry detergent, and buy no new clothes for a year, I’d say you deserve the running shoes you’ve been eying. Planned for or occasional small indulgences are the icing on the cake of life.

Therefore, it is essential to take a break once in a while. Especially in the US, we pretty much work ourselves to death. Down time is essential to overall health and well-being. An occasional indulgence and/or respite is often just what you need to push through or recover from a particularly crazy phase of life, a big project, a family event, whatever.

With that in mind, this blog’s author is taking a much-needed break from all things normal, including internet and this blog. If all goes well, we will be back in full force come August. See you on the sunnier side! 😉

~BE

 

The Budget Epicurean has its own home!

Welcome dear readers! I appreciate that you stopped by.  You may have noticed that the link up above is no longer attached to Google blogger.

That’s right! BudgetEpicurean.com is now live!
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I have my very own self-hosted site now to do as I please. Hopefully that means making your experience even better as a reader. If you have any comments, concerns, or suggestions of topics you want covered, please feel free to contact me at budgetepicurean @ gmail. com

I will also be launching restaurant reviews and features very soon.

This will be any local, unique food place I or a contributor has visited and thought highly of and wishes to share with you. If you have suggestions for places, or have a restaurant/coffee shop/cafe/bakery you want me to visit and possibly feature, please email me. All input is welcome.

Please bear with me as I go through archives to be sure  everything switched over properly, and figure out this new site.

I’m also right in the thick of the Neuroscience Preliminary Exam, which consists of a written and oral exam, and determines whether or not we proceed to another year of graduate school. Posts may be sporadic for a few weeks. But then it will be summer, and we will get right back to delivering quality content!

Thanks for stopping by, and keep coming back for all the delicious recipes, nutrition and health articles, and finance/budgeting your heart desires. Hope you’re having as much fun reading as I’ve had creating!

Breaking Out of a Rut Without Going Broke: Financial Tips for Career Transitioning

 

I’ve recently come to realize I’ve lost something I’ve had my whole life. Something that some, if not all, people never have. Direction. I didn’t really appreciate it until it was no longer there, like most important things in life. For me, it is science.

Science has been an inevitable, magnetic pull as far back as I can remember. I never even hesitated when people asked “What do you want to be?” or “What will you major in?”

Biology of course.

There are other things you can study and do? Who knew.

Biology in action.

Therefore, my whole life thus far has been laser-beam-focused on science. And I’ve certainly achieved my objective. From four different lab internships throughout undergrad, to a published masters thesis, to a PhD candidate position on a top medical campus, I’d say in terms of ‘doing science’ I have succeeded so far. 

Problem is, one day I realized that magnet was getting weaker.

And I fought it. I tried to re-focus, to think about it differently. But it faded away like a sunset, leaving the darkness of confusion in its wake. That thing which defined me, drove me, inspired me; now there is no pull. There is no sense of purpose, no goal to strive for.

Now what

I’m very fortunate that my parents taught me how to manage money from a young age. I started my first savings account at 13 with my meager allowance. I had many a lemonade stand and bake sale, babysat as soon as any parent would allow me, and had a part time job at a roller rink by 15.

My dad made me a deal to pay for half of my first car, and by the time I had my license in hand, I’d paid cash for a cute little green Saturn. Throughout college and my masters degree, I worked two jobs to cover rent, food, gas, and books. My high test scores had rewarded me with a full tuition scholarship. Because of this life-long money awareness, I made it out of six years of school with less than 1/3 the average college debt. 

I will be forever grateful to my parents for those lessons in frugality and saving.

Those lessons are ones I continue to apply every day in my life. My savings account is by no means impressive, but it would be enough at this point to allow me to be unemployed for about 5 months without changing my lifestyle one bit. If I cut back dramatically I could probably stretch that to 8 or 9 months. That is such a peace of mind when looking at a possible huge life change, like a major career transition.

As if the thought of not having a job weren’t stressful enough, I just think how much worse it would be if I literally needed that paycheck to pay my necessary bills. And I know a lot of people are currently in, will soon be, or have been in that exact situation, and my heart goes out to you.

If you are, or think you may soon be in a career transition situation, I have a few pieces of advice you should consider now to make it easier when that day comes.

1. Pay yourself first.

This is the most important rule of money. You pay your landlord rent, you pay the dealer for your car, you pay the grocery store for your food, you pay Uncle Sam his taxes. Why would you not pay yourself? After all, you are the one doing the hard work at whatever your job is to bring that paycheck home.

Statistics from December 2013 reveal that 40% of Americans are not saving for retirement, while 25% have no savings at all. That is a very scary thing. And when you pay all the required bills, there is not much left over for silly things like, say, food and gas. I understand. But that’s why it’s imperative you save 10% first

Use automatic transfers to make it easier. On the first of the month, just take 10% of your paycheck, whether that is $10 or $1000, and transfer it into a savings account.

It may be slow, but over time it will build. And you will find that you can still make it to the end of the month. Maybe you will have to cut out a trip to the store, or a movie night. But think how much better you will sleep at night when there is a cushion of cash you can call your own.

2. Scale back on non-necessities.

If you know for a fact that a period of transition is coming up, scaling back on your lifestyle can make a huge difference between being comfortable and feeling squeezed. If you know you will be transitioning to a different field, might be unemployed for a few months, or will have to take a lower paid position, try to estimate how your income will change and start living off that lower amount now. Save the difference

Maybe cut back on eating out, going to happy hours, or buy fewer groceries, and stop smoking now. Find ways to minimize the cost of things you like to do. Go to a matinee on Saturday instead of a Friday night if you like theaters. Have a potluck game night with friends rather than going out to a dinner. Host your own wine tasting; $30 goes a lot farther at home than in a club.

3. Make a budget and stick to it.

The first step here is to figure out how much you are currently spending. For one month, track every cent that leaves your accounts. You can do this by hand, or try using an online tracking tool like You Need a Budget or Mint.com. Here’s a handy article I wrote on using Mint if you’re new.

The next step is to figure out how much you want to or should be spending in these categories. Things like rent/mortgage, car or loan payments, and utilities are rather concrete. Focus on categories you have control over, such as entertainment, hobbies, gas, and groceries.

Find more great tips in How to Make & Stick to a Budget.

4. Learn to cook, and cook at home the majority of the time.

Eating out can cost $5-$15 for lunch and $10-$20 or more per person for dinner. If you have lunch with co-workers every day, and dinner at a restaurant 2-4 times per week, that is a significant expense. It will save you hundreds per year if you cook your own meals at home. Obviously I am a huge proponent of learning to cook! 

In the archives here you should find plenty of simple, cheap meals as inspiration, and the internet has seriously infinite ideas. Even just picking up a loaf of bread, peanut butter, and jelly will give you two week’s worth of lunches for less than you probably spend in one day eating out.

If you don’t think you have time to cook, check out my 10 Minute Chili Mac, Fancy Ramen Soup, or Easy Steak Stir-fry. Search “less than 5” here for meals that cost less than $5, take less than 5 minutes, and require less than 5 ingredients.

For even more tips on getting your grocery bill as low as it can go, check out How to Save Money on Your Grocery Bill.

5. Find frugal entertainment & frugal friends.

 

If your social circle is based on events where you are pressured into spending money, then you need to start branching out. Big trips, buying ‘toys’ like boats and golf clubs, and going out drinking cost you big bucks. Try new hobbies that don’t require money, like taking up jogging or walking, join a book club, hike, start a garden, or find a local sport club.

You could entertain yourself with a visit to the park, your local museums, or volunteering. Help Habitat for Humanity, your local church or soup kitchen, or go to Volunteer Match to find something that fits your interests in your area. You can get involved in your community, help people, and meet new friends along the way.

More ideas on cheap/free hobbies:
23 Fulfilling Hobbies You Can Start Right Now from Thought Catalog
The Only Thing You’ll Need to Spend is Time from The Simple Dollar
100 Cheap Hobbies – Spend Time Not Money from Free in 10 Years 
The 35 Best Ways to Spend Your Free Time (Frugally) from WiseBread 

Job transitioning articles:
When Your Dream Job Disappoints, How to Find Plan B from The Wall Street Journal
Don’t Burn Bridges: 10 Ways to Maximize a Job Transition from Monster Working
Transitioning From One Job to Another from Business Insider
Advice for People who Want to Quit Their Jobs from Thought Catalog

This post began with the intent of giving tips for making a career transition easier, but these tips are applicable to any stage of life. If you start incorporating these ideas into your daily life, you will notice your bank balances going up, maybe your debts going down, and your worries starting to ease. You may even find a whole new world of things you didn’t know existed, and make new life-long friends.

Though a career transition is scary, being prepared can help make it easier. The more you have saved, and the fewer your bills and expenses, the more comfortable you will feel financially. Then you can focus on perfecting that resume, building your network, and polishing your interview skills instead.

I have no idea where I will go from here, but I know that having some money in the bank and minimal expenses makes it a lot less scary to not know.



Have you ever transitioned between careers? What advice do you have?

And so it begins…

Well, after debating and thinking about starting a blog for quite some time, I have decided to go ahead and do so.

No idea what I’m doing, so you will have to learn along with me.

I have this idea to try to make a cookbook of some sort with recipes which are very easy and very easy on the wallet.

Having been a college student, and still a grad student, I know how strapped for cash we all are. And after talking to several people, I am always amazed at how few of us know how to feed ourselves beyond Ramen noodles and Taco Bell!

So my mission is to educate the hard working students of the world (or anyone who has little to no culinary experience and/or cash in their pockets) how to feed yourself… simply and cheaply.

I will update as often as I can, and will include recipes and pictures when I can. If you have recipe suggestions or any questions I would be happy to hear from you! I also welcome any reader to take my recipes and see how reproducible they are.

If this cookbook idea goes through, I want to know that my ideas work in the “real world” with real people.