When I was a kid growing up, I remember all-day-long canning sessions at my grandmother’s house. We would get the whole family together for steamy, tomato-scented days of carrying bushels of fresh tomatoes down from the giant overgrown garden, slicing and dicing, pushing them through the enormous, older-than-my-mom tabletop canning device, squeezing out seeds, stems, juice, skins, pulp.
Pouring thick red liquid into piping-hot Bell canning jars, just out of the rolling, boiling water, screwing on the lids and popping them back into that steamy water bath. Placing them in rows upon rows along the kitchen table, and listening for the “pop” “pop” “pop” of lids being sealed.
Lining those jars, still warm from the boiling water, along the shelves of the basement pantry. Knowing that meant months later, in the dead of winter, we could have huge platters of pasta with sauce that taste like summertime, and know that I helped make that happen.
That may sound quaint and overly-dramatic, but canning has always stuck with me and is something I desperately hope to continue into my adult life. I think our American lives of over-abundance and convenience takes a lot of the charm, knowledge, and wisdom out of feeding ourselves. We know nothing of how “food” is created, we just go to the grocery, pick out the boxes and cans, put them in the microwave and sit down in front of the TV to “eat” it.
I love the feeling of looking at something I personally created, start-to-finish, especially if it involves food I myself grew, picked, or somehow preserved. There is nothing like it. Sometime when your store has a sale on produce you like, give it a try and see for yourself.
Not only is home preserving fun and good for the soul, it is also good for the waist and pocketbook! Canning or freezing your own food lets you control what is put into it and avoid massive amounts of sodium, preservatives, colorants, etc. in commercially preserved foods. And though canning supplies may be a healthy chunk of change to begin with, you can re-use jars and rings nearly forever, with only new lids to buy each season.
This is my most recent adventure, when Colorado Palisade Peaches were at their prime. They are legendary for good reason, with such perfectly firm yet soft flesh and oodles of juice to drip down your chin. I of course ended up over-buying, and rather than commit the mortal sin of wasting produce, decided to can the excess.
You can use the outline of this recipe for just about any fruit, homemade salsa, or pre-cooked vegetables (like carrots, green beans, or beets). For more recipes specific to fruit types, head over to PickYourOwn.com, a wealth of home preservation tips. For tips on individual types of veggies, SimplyCanning.com has a whole library.
Step 1: Cut the peaches into slices. It is up to you if you want to peel them or can with peels on. To peel them, boil for 5 minutes, then submerge in ice water. The peels should slide off. I left the peels on cause I’m lazy and I like the extra nutrition.
Step 2: Mix the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Stir in the peach slices, and simmer 5-10 minutes.
Step 3: While peaches are cooking, bring a huge pot of water to a boil with your jars, lids and rings inside. This sterilizes the jars. You can also run them through the dishwasher.
Step 4: After boiling the jars, use the tongs to pour the water out of them. Fill the jars with the peaches, using a spatula to press them down and squish in the edges. Leave 1/4-1/2 inch space, and put the lids on.
Step 5: Put the jars back into the boiling water, and process for 15-20 minutes. Make sure the jars are fully submerged. This will help kill any microbes, and seal the jars.
Step 6: Use the tongs to remove the jars, and place on a towel or hard surface to cool. Don’t disturb the jars for 6-12 hours, or until you hear the “pop” sound of the lid sealing. If after overnight cooling any jars have not sealed (the lid won’t be sucked in, and sort of springy when you push on it) put those jars in the refrigerator and use within one month.
It is normal for some canned fruit to change color slightly over time. But if you notice extreme discoloration, a bright red, or green color, get rid of that food immediately!
Jars processed this way should be stored in cool, dark, dry areas and are good for quite a long time. If properly processed, they are theoretically good forever. But I doubt they will last that long! 😉
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.
Here is a breakdown of all the food purchased and consumed throughout the week:
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.
Here is a break-down of all the meals I ate this week:
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.
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!
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.
If you don’t know what SNAP is, or why I’m talking about the SNAP Challenge, check out my earlier post about SNAP.
So Wednesday ended my week of tracking for meal costs. I calculated every thing I ate each day, and used receipts and records to add up how much each day’s food and drink cost. You can see on the graph below that I averaged just over $5 per day.
This does not include costs of food given to me by other sources, such as shared snacks at my work place, cupcakes a new neighbor baked for me (so sweet), or food and drinks at a party. I also cook and eat the majority of my meals at home. Days 2 & 3 included half a Chipotle burrito and that is why the cost is significantly higher. Eating out is (almost always) more expensive than a home-cooked meal.
For the upcoming week, my challenge is to live off only $28.70 worth of food and drinks.
My strategy is always to make cost effective foods the center piece of the meal plan, supplemented by as much fresh and frozen produce as possible. I know I have a significant privilege and advantage over the average SNAP recipients in that I have access to no fewer than five different grocery stores, each offering rotating sales.
Sprouts Farmers Market is always my first stop for extremely reasonably priced fresh produce. I got a 5 pound bag of potatoes, and a few small amounts of fruits & veggies. With a rough idea of a meal plan, I headed to King Sooper with the change and rounded out the week. What you see below is what I will be eating.
And to prove that I am still within budget, in fact with $4.31 to spare, here is the spread sheet where I figured out exactly how much each item cost and how much I had left to spend:
I also calculated the cost of a cup of coffee (16oz is a cup for me…) with cream as $0.17, including the filter, so depending on how often I need coffee I will add that in at the end.
Wish me luck! (To participate in the challenge yourself, check out Feeding America)
Since September is Hunger Awareness Month, I became aware of a social movement being dubbed “The SNAP Challenge“. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and is how millions of low-income Americans obtain the necessary food to survive. The benefits, lowered in November of 2013, now equate to on average $28.70 per individual per week, or $4.10 per day, roughly $1.36 per meal.
The premise of the challenge is that you will only spend the equivalent amount of SNAP benefits on all food and drink for one straight week. No eating out, no bulk buys, no food sharing or freebies. This gives the challenge-e a peek into the lives of those who live on this budget not by choice but out of necessity.
THE CHALLENGE I decided to take on this challenge in two parts. As touted on this blog, I already cook and eat in a frugal manner. Years of school-life budget have forced me to find shortcuts and substitutions to keep my bank account out of the red while still enjoying my meals. So, the first part of this challenge will be to track every food expense for one week. Then I can see just how much more than SNAP I spend daily.
The second, likely more difficult part of the challenge, would be to take $28.70 to the store to get all the food and drinks I would have the following week. Then I will track every item and post every recipe.
I am going to allow myself one cheat here. I am always looking for deals, and keep a detailed record of each food purchase. Therefore I will allow myself to use some previously purchased, but unopened, food items which I have a receipt record of for this challenge (such as oatmeal). This is because people on such a budget likely do not spend it all in one day (though the majority of those households on SNAP have run out of benefits by the third week of the month) and have some non-perishable items they use throughout the month or beyond.
As of now, I am planning my week’s meals around staples which I know from experience give the most “bang-for-the-buck”, nutrition for the price. I intend to build in a $5 “cushion” if I can manage it, for food emergencies. I am also going to try to get as much fresh fruits and/or vegetables into my budget for the week, and build in snacks. Because I am human, you know.
This week of tracking will end Tuesday, and my week of SNAP meals will begin on Wednesday. I will post an update on the tracking on Thursday, and check in on the lessons I learned soon after the week is over.
If you are intrigued and want to learn more, or if you are interested in taking the challenge yourself, check out Feeding America, the USDA website, or FoodShare.
It is estimated that one in six Americans go hungry every day. Your colleagues, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors may be quietly struggling. You can do small things to make a big difference.
Host a food donation drive in your church, work, school, or community and donate it to a local food bank. Volunteer your time to sort and distribute donations, or drive meals to homebound people in your neighborhood. Donate money, because in the right hands a dollar still has a lot of buying power to feed a kid who otherwise couldn’t have more than one meal today. Just start conversations about hunger, learn about it and share.
Here are some suggested questions to ask yourself during your SNAP Challenge week from Feeding America:
How did your shopping cart look compared to a normal week? What choices did you have to make about the types of food you could afford, where you shopped, or the nutritional quality and variety of food?
What have you cut out of your routine to stay on budget (e.g. COFFEE)?
How would this experience be different if your spouse and children were also eating off a limited food budget for the week?
How has eating on a limited budget impacted your mood? Your concentration? How has that impacted your interaction with family and coworkers?
Are you worried about your groceries running out before the end of the Challenge? Do you feel you are you eating a healthy, balanced diet? What nutrition decisions did you have to make?
We know that low-income Americans have to make choices between groceries, prescriptions, gas for the car, utilities, and other household necessities. After living on a limited food budget this week, how has your perspective changed about the decisions families facing hunger must make?
In November 2013, the government will cut SNAP benefits for all recipients. These cuts will be $36 for a family of four – dropping the average benefit per person per meal to under $1.40. How would this week have been different for you if you had even less money to spend on food?
We all know that our health is our greatest asset. I hope. Health is one of two things you can never get back; that and time. We are only given one body and one life to live. Enjoy what your body can do, use it, and work it out.
“Working out” tends to become a bit of a curse word with some people. They hear that and immediately get exhausted. You think: ‘I don’t have time’ or ‘I don’t have energy’ or ‘I can’t afford a gym’. But all these excuses are just that: excuses. Working out doesn’t have to cost any money at all. And working out can be fun.
Think back to when you were a kid. You went outside and played with friends. Maybe you had bike races or foot races, played basketball or softball, rolled in leaves and climbed trees. Hopscotch, jump rope, kickball, four square. All of these things get you moving, in a way that is fun. As adults, we need to re-discover “play time“.
As a society, we have become more and more sedentary as life becomes full of conveniences. We get out of bed to go sit in the car to go sit at a desk to then sit in the car to come home to sit on the couch. There is no hunting and gathering, building our own houses, gardening, running from danger. This has lead to the greatest health threats and most dire health situation humanity has know. We hear every day about the ‘obesity epidemic’ and how diabetes is on the rise.
You have the power to change that. You have the power over your own body and your own life.
There are tons of cheap-to-free ways to work out. I’ll list them in order of free to most expensive:
1. Walking: The simplest and easiest way to do wonders for your health. Walking takes no money at all, can be done at any time, anywhere, and you can start at any comfort level. If all you can manage is to the end of the driveway and back, great, start there. If you already walk a half hour after dinner, awesome! Walking has been shown scientifically to be so beneficial for all things health related, there is no reason not to start right now!
2. Jogging: Only slightly more challenging than walking. Start with walking, then once you can comfortably walk for 30 minutes, pick up the pace for a minute or two. If you like jogging, increase it until you can run a 5K. Who knows how far you can go! The only costs will be a good pair of shoes if you start doing longer runs.
3. Body weight exercises: this includes things like yoga and pilates, push-ups, jumping jacks, planks, crunches, squats. You can drop a few bucks on a yoga mat or something like that. Look online for ideas and free videos to demonstrate. You can get a great full-body workout for free in your own home.
Image from the very informative website of Bret Contreras, the “Glute Guy”
4. Workout videos: This is borderline because you can find free videos online, or you can buy workout DVDs. Totally your choice. There is a HUGE amount of workout resources free online, just Google ‘videos’ and the type of workout you’re looking for, or check out one of the Top 30 YouTube channels for free workouts. These can be done on your own time in the comfort of your living room.
5. Bands/weights: This category can be very frugal if you pick up a used set of light free weights at a yard sale or Goodwill, or very pricey if you want to invest in a bench and full weights set. Again, your call. Make sure you consult an expert or at least look up information on proper form so you don’t injure yourself if you’re new to weights.
6. Sports: Playing a club sport for fun or competition is a great way to have fun while working out, and as a bonus you can meet new people and make new friends. Check out the website of your local sports centers or Google sports that you enjoy in your area. This could be free or cheap, costing you just an application fee, or you could sink a few hundred dollars into new gear. Up to you.
7. Classes: For this you can check Craigslist or Groupon for free or cheap classes offered near you. Or you can usually buy a single class or set of classes from a gym for a discount. Just look for fliers or ask around, you never know what neat new skill you might learn, and the friends you might make. Take a chance and try something new!
8. A gym membership: Typically the most expensive option, it does come with benefits. Most gyms do offer a free pass, or discounted first months membership if you want to just try it out. You will have access to weights, machines, and classes you otherwise might not. They usually have staff to help you use machines properly, or you could invest in personal training. Make sure you will get your moneys worth though, and actually show up.
In the end, it all comes down to the greatest exercise being one you enjoy and will consistently do. If you don’t move your body, you won’t get the benefits. Find ways to make it fun, buy a used bicycle, try kick-boxing, enlist some family or friends for a weekly stroll in the park. The options are endless once you really think about it and look.
And it all comes down to you. Why should you work out? Sure, it’s nice to look hot. Sure, it’s nice to have visible muscles. But the ultimate goal of health is just that: to be healthy. To have energy to play with your kids, to not get winded walking up stairs, to be able to lift boxes to help a friend move.
According to Wikipedia (which we all know is the single most accurate and respected source of information in this era) “Genetic evidence has shown that rice originates from a single domestication 8,200–13,500 years ago in the Pearl River valley region of China. ” So rice has been around, domesticated by people, for at LEAST 8000 years! Rice was spread to Europe through West Asia, then to the Americas by European colonization.
Today, rice is the most important grain in regards to human nutrition, beating out both wheat and corn, as it supplies nearly 1/5 the calorie intake worldwide. One-fifth of all calories eaten anywhere in the world comes from rice. Wow.
And I can certainly see why. Rice is delicious as a side dish and endlessly versatile. It is able to grow in many different climates, in large amounts. Literally any vegetable cooked up and mixed with rice is great, it complements all meats, and you can pour nearly any sauce over it with great results. It’s awesome in soup, burritos, as a side or main dish, sushi, dessert (rice pudding anyone?), heck on its own with some soy sauce as a snack. Rice can also be ground into flour and used in bread, baking, or as a thickener.
Ways to prepare rice
To cook rice, it is typically boiled or steamed to cause it to absorb water. This can be done rapidly in a large amount of water which is then drained off, or more slowly in an amount of water similar to the amount of rice. Once cooked, the rice can be further processed by frying in oil to make fried rice.
Soaking rice before cooking may improve cooked texture, decrease cooking time, conserve fuel, minimize exposure to high temperature, and reduce stickiness.
Electric rice cookers are also very popular in Asian countries and increasingly so in the US.
White vs. Brown rice
Rice grains with the chaff removed is brown rice, and has the bran and germ still attached. When you remove the germ, you get white rice. If you remove every layer, you have “Musenmai”, a Japanese style of rice, ready to boil.
According to the USA Rice Federation, rice contains no trans fats or saturated fats, no sodium or cholesterol. It is also a staple for those with celiac disease because of the lack of gluten. In 2004 the U.N. declared the International Year of Rice, in an effort to promote awareness of how important a crop rice is and its role in alleviating poverty and malnutrition worldwide.
Vitamin A deficiency is a very real health concern in nations which get the majority of their calories from rice. Research into how to make rice more nutritious led to “Golden Rice“. This rice is genetically engineered to contain the precursor for Vitamin A, beta-carotene. The beta-carotene turns the rice yellowish gold, hence the name.
I recently had a friend tell me that she wished she knew more things to make with rice, because she knows rice is delicious and good for you. So this post is inspired by her, to inspire all you home cooks out there with some Jasmine, wild, or brown rice, and confusion as to what to do with it tonight.
SIDES Rice is an excellent side dish, and I’m sure you know many more possibilities, but here are some rice sides ideas.
1. Cream of Mushroom rice: Boil a batch of rice. For extra oomph, use half milk when preparing the rice. Open a can of cream of mushroom soup, and pour over, mix into rice, season with salt & pepper, and serve.
2. Mexican Rice: Prepare 1-2 cups rice, mixing in 1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies in place of 1 cup water. Add 1/2 cup corn, and/or 1/2 cup black beans. Serve.
3. Burritos: Rice is a perfect addition to most Mexican dishes. Take a tortilla, fill it with meat (if you want), beans of any kind, cooked veggies, and warm fresh rice. Wrap up and scarf down.
4. Risotto: In a pan, melt 4 tbsp butter. Add 1 cup raw rice, and 1/4 cup chicken broth. Heat to medium, just a simmer, and stir. As stock evaporates, continue adding more in 1/4 cup increments, until you add 1 1/2 cups. After 30-40 minutes, the rice will be soft and risotto-like. Add vegetables while cooking if desired. You can also use cream.
5. Cilantro-Lime Rice: Prepare 1-2 cups rice. When fully cooked, add in 2 tbsp sea salt, 1/4 cup lime juice, and 3 tbsp chopped cilantro. Mix well and serve.
Or, whip up a batch of plain white rice as a base for:
Stew – vegetable, beef, pork, or chicken. Make it extra thick.
Jambalaya – find a good recipe using whatever Cajun ingredients you like and serve over fresh white rice.
Ratatouille – use this summer-veggie heavy dish to enjoy your bumper crop of zucchini, and serve over rice.
MAINS Rice can be included with other items to make a hearty, nutrient-dense main dish. Here are some ideas.
6. Chicken & Rice Soup: in a large pot, combine a few pounds of chicken (bone-in is best for the flavor), a cup or two of diced veggies, a can of beans, and a cup of rice with just enough water to cover with an inch or two. Simmer 30-60 minutes and enjoy.
7. Fried rice: Fried rice is super simple, and you can make it into anything. Add veggies & an egg for a vegetarian version, or mix in some chicken, pork, or steak strips.
8. Red Beans & Rice: Cook up a batch of white rice, add Cajun seasonings and sausage if you like, and one can of red beans. Frugal, filling, and delicious.
9. Bean & rice burgers: In a large bowl, combine 1 cup cooked rice (any kind) with 1 can of beans (any kind) and mash together. Add 2-3 tbsp oil, and flour until it sticks together. Shape into patties and cook in an oiled frying pan on both sides.
10. Broccoli cheddar rice: in a slow cooker or pot, combine 1 cup rice, 1 cup milk, 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, and 1 cup frozen broccoli. Simmer 30-50 minutes, mix well and enjoy. You can add cooked shredded chicken for a meat eater.
11. Porcupine meatballs: a Slovak classic; mix 1 pound ground beef, 1 cup cooked rice, 1 can tomato sauce, and spices (garlic salt, Mrs. Dash, black pepper…) in a bowl. Shape into meatballs, and cook on a cookie pan at 350 for 30-45 minutes. Serve with extra tomato sauce and mashed potatoes.
12. Stuffed peppers: (or zucchini, mushrooms, cabbage rolls, grape leaves…) for this recipe, you take the above recipe for porcupine meatballs, and stuff it into a vegetable. Wrap it in cooked cabbage leaves, pile it onto portobellos, or stuff hollow bell peppers. Bake at 350 for 30-50 minutes, until the outer veggie is tender.
13. Chicken & Rice casserole: the absolute easiest way is to take 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, dice into chunks, and put into a 8×8 oven-safe pan. Mix in 1 cup uncooked rice, 1 cup milk or chicken stock, and 1 cup diced vegetables. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 1 hour, uncover and sprinkle with cheese and bake another 5 minutes until crisp.
14. Sushi: as my salmon nigiri post shows, even an unskilled cook can manage an attempt at sushi. Prepare the white rice with vinegar and spices, and cover with fish of your choice. Seaweed optional.
15.Rice pudding: a classic dessert with endless variations, you can make this stove-top or in the oven. The basics are: simmer rice in milk 30-60 minutes, stirring regularly. Add cinnamon, sugar, any other sweeteners or flavorings (like almond extract, vanilla, maple syrup) and possibly eggs, chill and serve sprinkled with cinnamon.
And there you have it, one of the most versatile grains in the known world, with over 15 ideas of how to cook with it tonight. If you have unique ideas not mentioned here, please feel free to share!
“Honey honey, how you thrill me, ah-hah, honey honey”… ABBA had it right. Honey is thrilling, and delicious. Produced by the humble honey bee, it is an ancient sweetener and medicine.
How is honey made?
Honey begins as flower nectar. The flowers make a sweet, sugary liquid for the purpose of attracting insects, like the honeybee, to them. In this symbiotic relationship, the bee gets a treat and the flower gets its pollen spread. The pollen sticks to the bee’s furry body, and it can carry the pollen miles away to fertilize another flower.
The worker bees bring the nectar back to the hive, where they store it in the honey combs. The sugars are naturally broken down, and evaporation turns the liquid into the thick, gold goodness we know as honey. Humans have found ways to harvest excess honey while not harming the bees and leaving more than enough for the hive. Good news for us all!
Honey is a versatile thing. Honey is a great, natural sweetener. Thus, you can use it to replace sugar or other sweeteners in many things. It can be used as a sweetener in beverages and baked goods, such as a sweetener and binding agent in granola bars, or mixed with balsamic vinegar and drizzled over strawberries.
A teaspoon of honey in warm milk will help rid you of insomnia, at least I believe so. A tablespoon (or four) of honey makes a warm cup of tea positively sing. Honey can be used in cooking as part of a tropical marinade, in a dressing for coleslaw, or as a snack like putting honey on a sweet potato.
I got my awesome honey from Bjorn’s Colorado Honey at the Cherry Creek Farmer’s Market which I recently reviewed. You can find them in Boulder, CO at 845 Mohawk Dr. or many Colorado farmer’s markets. The woman running the stand was very kind, and passionate about bees and the good they do in the world.
Her company not only sells local raw honey, but also makes many beeswax products and proplis based cosmetics. What is propolis? you may ask.
According to Wikipedia, propolis is a resinous mixture bees collect and use to seal small gaps in their hive. Larger gaps are usually sealed with wax. Beeswax is used in many cosmetic products, but propolis largely has gone to waste. Until now.
I tried a sample of this hand cream, and it truly is wonderful. It instantly makes your skin feel smooth and supple, and smells clean without any perfumy fragrance.
The honey itself was only $10 for a 16 oz jar. To order some yourself, email pontus. jacobson @ gmail. com. The viscous liquid gold is wonderful on just about anything; particularly drizzled over yogurt, granola, and fresh seasonal fruit.
Honey nutritional facts
Honey is more than just sugar. Per 1 tbsp, it has about 60 calories, zero fat and cholesterol, 17 g of carbs (16 of which are sugar), but also has trace vitamins and minerals, as well as antibacterial properties which may help the healing process for cuts or bites.
Honey also has beauty benefits. The Huffington Post lists 9 “sweet” ways you can use honey in your beauty routine for frugal fixes, from dry hair to chapped lips.
It is a popular belief that honey can help cure seasonal allergies. The logic behind this claim is that bees use nectar and collect pollen from the flowers which are blooming in your area. Thus the honey will contain small amounts of this pollen. When you eat local honey, your immune system recognizes these foreign particles and fights them. Then when you encounter them again in nature, you should be fortified with pre-made anti-allergens.
The problem is, that is false. Simply eating small amounts of local honey cannot cure allergies. Reasons include the fact that bees carry back many types of pollen and contaminants, so you cannot have honey made from say only ragweed pollen. Also allergies are typically caused by allergens blowing in the wind, not the kind the bees collect on their bodies. This just means honey belongs in your kitchen, not your medicine cabinet.
To remind readers, this is the second part of the first food review article for Budget Epicurean. For reviews, preference will be given to unique, local, family-owned establishments. Food locations will be evaluated based on:
Taste: 1 (wet toast) – 10 (your taste buds have died and gone to heaven)
So we survived 2 days of a 4 day trip so far, and have kayaked along downtown, been filmed for The Cooking Channel, tried tacos of all sorts, and experienced food trucks, dive bars, and fine dining in Part 1 of Austin food reviews. Upcoming adventures include skydiving, hipster bars, ice cream, burritos, and of course you can’t leave Texas without some classic Texas BBQ!
After a late brunch at the Roaring Fork, we were pretty well sated. However, that same friend who was kind enough to introduce us to Gourdough’s had more late-night epicurious adventures planned.
This time, the lovely silver sporty car rolled to a stop in front of local hot spot Easy Tiger. Bake shop by day (and night) and hopping hipster bar scene by night, I was wowed by the atmosphere here. At 709 East Sixth Street, the place was wall-to-wall packed with locals laughing and talking, sipping on craft brewed beers from a huuuuuuuuge blackboard list, munching on various ethnic appetizers, and playing various bar games. Not surprising for a Friday night.
The indoor portion offers tempting-smelling baked goods at street level, convenient for anyone stumbling home from the famous 6th street drink-fest at 1am. If one is still coordinated enough to descend the steep staircase, a large tavern area greets you with a not-too-loud mix of music playing, several bar areas, and plentiful seating.
Wander further and you reach the outdoor area. Aforementioned huuuuuuge list of beers is a reminder as you walk out into an iron-fenced cobblestone yard littered with picnic benches right next to a gorgeous river. With several bridges over the water, lighted lampposts, strings of lights, and wall-climbing ivy, the whole area is reminiscent of a European alleyway. At the furthest end there is a netted area for ping-pong, where a rowdy group of people is playing a heated game.
We sit at a weathered wooden picnic table and intently study the drink menu. Nowhere near hungry enough for a full meal, we defer to our friend’s expert opinion. He puts in our order, and then the waitress looks to me for my drink. Still a bit overwhelmed by the selection, I ask her opinion on a light, fruity beer. She gives me full details on several on the menu, and I end up choosing a Real Ale Fireman’s #4.
The beers are delivered in frosty, heavy glass mugs in record time. The Real Ale was still a bit hoppy for me, but I’m a beer novice. I had gone against my friend’s advice, who wanted me to try a local Austin beer, and I regret it a bit. However, there is a flavor for every taste and plenty of opportunity to go back and try another.
They do have a “Mug Club” with the cryptic “ask your server for details” on the menu. I can only assume that means some sort of challenge whereby you pay a large price upfront then get to try each and every beer they offer. If I were an Austin local, I may be up to the challenge.
As we chatted in the breezy evening air and listened to the water flowing by, our server brought out the surprise appetizers: the Mixed Grill and a house soft pretzel.
The mixed grill consisted of a perfectly balanced four-point spread of beef sirloin with cilantro chimichurri, pork tenderloin with stout maple glaze, grilled corn, and house-made kielbasa with sauerkraut and honey mustard.
As there was only one piece of corn, and I did not consume it, I cannot attest to the caliber of the vegetables here. The meat however… How can I even describe the beef sirloin? Delectable. Melt in your mouth. Perfect. It was cooked just right, crisp brown exterior with a butter-soft pink interior. The chimichurri sauce was a flavor explosion of fresh herbs and spices.
The pork tenderloin was tender and juicy, sweet with a subtle beer flavor. And the kielbasa made the pollock inside me swoon with happiness. The honey mustard was a bit too overpowering for my taste, and the sauerkraut doesn’t hold a candle to my grammy’s. However, the kielbasa itself was perfect just as it was. Though quite pricey for the amount of meat, the Mixed Grill is an indulgence worth trying at least once.
The soft pretzel was roughly the size of a large person’s head. It was perfectly soft and doughy, and liberally sprinkled with sea salt. I’m not sure if there was anything other than butter in the dipping sauce, but it was sure addictive. It all disappeared faster than we probably wanted.
Overall, I’d give Easy Tiger:
8 for taste
10 for atmosphere
7 for value
Though it would have been perfect enough to sit and enjoy the view and atmosphere of Easy Tiger, we were a three-block walk from the most famous drinking and debauchery location in Austin, so we had to explore further.
While we ate nothing further that night, I can attest that 6th Street is indeed quite the party place. As it was also graduation weekend for many local universities, I’m sure the crowds were even rowdier than usual. And local establishment The Jackalope has decent Kamikaze shots. Lemony and burny, just what one needs before dancing the night away.
What’s the best thing to do the next day on little sleep? Indoor skydiving of course! Austin iFLY is a giant indoor skydiving destination. Using the same technology professional skydivers practice with, you can experience what it’s like to float and free-fall.
It is quite the experience to be wearing a fitted flight suit and lean forward into an enormous upward air stream to be completely supported in midair.
Conveniently, right next door is a local favorite ice cream spot, Amy’s Ice Creams. With several locations, this one offers those who have done the iFLY experience an extra free topping. Jackpot.
The website lists over twenty pages of rotating ice cream flavors. They also offer all the standard toppings like hot fudge, caramel, nuts, and whipped cream, along with a dizzying array of specialty toppings. Chocolate dipped strawberries, sundaes, frozen yogurt, ice cream cakes, floats and milkshakes round out the full menu of delicious desserts.
They also have a question on the board which if you answer correctly, you get a bonus topping! It’s worth knowing your Disney trivia for extra chocolate or candy goodness. See if you know the featured question from when I went.
What movie is this quote from: “Cause I’m a lady, that’s why”?
I’m not telling the answer, in case that question is still up. =) I knew it because I’m a Disney girl through and through. That meant I could have up to two extra toppings! I’m such a sucker for warm brownies and ice cream. So I ended up with a warm brownie sundae with vanilla bean ice cream, hot fudge, caramel, nuts, whipped cream, and butterfinger bits.
Yeah, it was just as mouth-watering as you’re thinking it was.
The ice cream was distinctly vanilla flavored, with flecks of the bean throughout. The chocolate fudge was molten liquid, slightly melting the ice cream. A soft, fudgy brownie waited at the center for anyone daring enough to dig for it. And dig I did. The crunchy Butterfinger pieces were the perfect topping, and I just love peanutty things stuck permanently in my teeth.
The whole experience was fantastic, though my eyes were far bigger than my stomach. I could have split this with someone and still had extra left over. The ice creamery was right next to the bakery part of Amy’s and though I did not try any of the food from there, it smelled divine. The inside had televisions showing live-image feed from the skydiving going on next door. And there was a gorgeous shaded play area out back with lots of toys and playground equipment to keep the sugared-up kids that go there happy.
Overall, I’d give Amy’s Ice Creams:
8 for taste
7 for atmosphere
7 for value
To head off the sugar coma which was sure to follow this treat, we decided to do a quick hike up Mount Bonnell. This is the generally accepted highest point in Austin at 775 feet. Named for the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for the Texas Republic, George Bonnell who moved to Austin in 1839, spectacular views of Lake Austin and occasionally downtown are offered from the peak.
After a quick jaunt up the 190 feet incline of steps and some photo ops of the Lake view, we have worked up enough hunger to round out our journey with a stop at Freebird’s World Burrito.
Begun in 1987 in Santa Barbara, California and made popular by UC Santa Barbara students, Freebird’s four tortilla flavors and four sizes of burritos quickly spread like wildfire and grew in popularity.
Each Freebird’s location boasts a life-sized “Libby” statue of liberty riding a custom-built bike exploding out of the wall.
There are many choices to be made, first up: what size of burrito? There is the original FREEBIRD size. Then if you’ve a smaller appetite, the HYBRID. (S.O. says “that one is for wimps”). If you’ve got a mighty appetite, you can try the MONSTER. And if you’ve a death wish, go ahead and take on the SUPER MONSTER. Those bad boys weigh in at about seven pounds of meat, cheese, rice, and toppings. Holy heart attack.
I decide that in the interest of not dying I’d like the wimpy hybrid. Now, what kind of wrap? They offer four flavors: Spinach, Cayenne, Flour, or Wheat, each with its own unique color. Let’s try spinach, to pretend like a massive burrito is a healthy choice.
Layered up with meat of your choice, beans, salsas, lettuce, cheese, and/or sour cream, rolled into a tight bundle and wrapped in aluminum foil, we grab our giant bag of goodness and head on home. But not without first admiring all the tin foil art around the building. Apparently it is a thing to take your foil from an eaten burrito and turn it into a piece of art. Then you leave it scattered about the building for future burrito-lovers to enjoy. It’s amazing how creative people can get sometimes…
“Fresh. Natural. Scratch-made on the daily. That’s the way FREEBIRDS rolls.” The website does not lie, this burrito tastes like all the ingredients came out of a garden just this morning. The steak is seasoned perfectly, the veggies are crisp and delicious, the salsa isn’t too spicy as to make it inedible, and the green tomatillo sauce is just right. This is a similar and yet different experience from Chipotle, with its own unique offerings.
Overall, I’d give Freebird’s World Burrito:
8 for taste
7 for atmosphere
7 for value
With the Austin trip coming to a close, we realized we had still not had any Texas BBQ. As we had to head to the airport the following afternoon, the best option was to have the Salt Lick BBQ at the Austin International Airport.
Want to know what makes the Salt Lick BBQ so unique and darn delicious? They say “The barbeque sauce has no tomatoes so it won’t burn or become bitter. It does have sugar so it will easily caramelize. We sear the meat and then move it away from the hottest part of the fire to cook slowly. We finish our products over an open fire fed by live oak wood.” Whoa.
Though I was assured that the airport version is nowhere near the same as the sit-down location in Round Rock, TX, it sure smelled like heaven waiting in line at the airport. We had to go with the brisket meal deal, because we all know brisket is simply the world’s greatest meat. It comes with classic baked beans and a pickle, on a square sesame seed bun.
The brisket was divine. The BBQ sauce was indeed not tomato-ey or tart, but it had a sweetness and smoky depth of flavor. The meat is tender and juicy, good enough to eat alone by the pound. The beans were interesting… too much black pepper for my taste, and not enough brown sugar or bacon. But who cares when you have the world’s best meat sandwich right?
The sandwich was so filling that I only finished half of it. Luckily I could take the rest on the plane ride home, and had a little piece of Texas for lunch the following day. At about ten bucks for the meal, getting two meals out of it was a bonus.
While the airport offered plentiful seating near the location, it was in an airport. So I cannot judge what the atmosphere of the sit-down location is like.
Overall, I’d give the Salt Lick:
9 for taste
5 for atmosphere
7 for value
And there you have it. Eight food destinations in Austin Texas, from all different food genres and price points. Each one unique and with outstanding offerings, I hope dear readers that you have the chance to visit all of them at some point.
If you have a food location you’d like to see featured here, please email me at Jennifer (at) budgetepicurean (dot) com with details.
For a process as old as humanity itself, breastfeeding gets a lot of media attention.
I’ve read many articles and arguments over the years, and decided to spend some time looking into the matter. Not that I need to worry about it, having no children myself. But maybe someday, who knows.
And it has to do with two of my most favorite topics, money and food. How so? you may ask. Well, breastfeeding saves you money because your body naturally makes it. It is free food for several months for this little critter you just popped out of your body. And food, because that’s what breast milk is.
Also I’m just insatiably curious. I read this article on Yahoo, and it stirred something in me. <Update as of Aug 2014: Also you should check out this article from Verily all about recent celebrity breastfeeding photos and what it should tell “regular” moms about breastfeeding in public too.>
Why does the entire world think their opinions are needed, welcome, or necessary about what a woman does with her own body? I’ve always been of the opinion that what I do is my business and what you do is yours.
I object to smoking in public because I hate the smell of smoke, it makes me gag and cough, and actively damages my health. If you want to smoke in your own house or car or whatever, that’s your life decision. If you dress like a hooker or wear your pants down to your ankles, yes I will silently judge you. But you aren’t actively harming me or stopping me from living my life, so I have nothing to say to you about it.
It is the same with breastfeeding. I’ve seen women in public and private doing so, both with and without covers. I’m more comfortable if they use a cover, sure. I feel super awkward if a lady’s breast is all hanging out, but that doesn’t mean I have to look at it. Look away, or go somewhere else. If she doesn’t feel the need to cover up, that’s her choice.
Anyways, time to get down off my soap box and look at some facts.
How it works
“Breastfeeding” is exactly that, the act of feeding an infant with milk produced by a female human breast. This production of milk is lactation, and is a natural anatomical event which begins after giving birth. Newborns only minutes old already have a suckling reflex which enables them to latch on to a breast, suck, and swallow milk. Surprisingly, Wikipedia has a very complete and thorough page all about breastfeeding.
Common recommendations are that babies be breast fed within an hour of birth, exclusively breastfed for the first six months, then supplemented with age-appropriate foods until age two or “as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby” (American Academy of Pediatrics).
During pregnancy and after giving birth, the woman’s hormonal endocrine system drives milk production in the milk duct system of the breasts. Progesterone, estrogen, prolactin, oxytocin, and others all influence development and production of milk. The milk ejection process, known as let-down, is triggered by oxytocin in response to the baby’s suckling. It can also become a conditioned response, as in beginning at the cry of the baby.
The milk is made from the nutrients in the mother’s body and bloodstream, and consists of just the right balance of fat, sugar, protein, and water for the baby. How much milk is produced can change depending on the age of the child, how often they nurse, and how much they consume per nursing session.
From the Wikipedia page: Formula (left) next to breast milk (right)
Many years ago, and in some poor countries today, your only option is to breastfeed. With the invention of formula, this freed mothers to allow others to feed their child if for some reason they could not. A third option has been even more recently made available through the widespread use of pumps. This combines the benefit of using your own milk with the convenience of having stores whenever the baby is hungry and using a bottle. The choice is personal, and unique to each mother’s situation.
Women who are nursing or pumping need to be careful of what they eat, as you can pass on toxins, mercury, and alcohol through breast milk. Alcohol-containing breastmilk has been shown to have a detrimental effect on motor development. Additionally, excess caffeine in breastmilk can cause irritability and restlessness in infants, so keep it under three cups of coffee (or 300 mg) per day.
Chronic non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as heart disease, respiratory diseases, and diabetes, are a growing concern in the developed and developing worlds. These diseases have a complex interaction of causes from genetics to gender, age and ethnicity, to environmental factors and lifestyle choices.
The major risk factors of chronic NCDs include smoking, hyperlipidemia (high lipids in the blood), hypertension (high blood pressure), hyperglycemia (high levels of sugar in the blood), obesity, and a sedentary lifestyle. A review titled “The protective effects of breastfeeding on chronic non-communicable diseases in adulthood: A review of evidence” looks at the current body of literature researching the effects of breastfeeding on NCDs. There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that breastfeeding has protective roles for the infant against obesity, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and type II diabetes mellitus during adulthood.
Mother’s milk has been a staple of child rearing for decades, maybe millennia. Its nutritional content and makeup has been adapted to feed a newborn infant into a strong, healthy toddler. It also contains antibodies from the environment of the mother, and thus the baby, helping the baby’s immune system develop. There are numerous physical, emotional, psychological and health benefits for mothers too.
In addition to its short-term benefits, encouraging breastfeeding can have long-term beneficial health effects at individual and population levels.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, research shows that breast feeding provides advantages with regard to general health, growth, and development for the baby. Infants who are not breastfed are at a significantly increased risk for a large number of acute and chronic diseases including:
lower respiratory infection
urinary tract infection
weak jaw and jaw muscles
There are numerous studies that show a possible protective effect of breast milk feeding against sudden infant death syndrome, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma, allergic diseases, digestive diseases, and a possible enhancement of cognitive development. However, the association between breastfeeding and ‘intelligence’ is not clear.
Regardless, it is hard to argue that breastfeeding will in any way harm your baby’s health. In fact, the vast majority of mothers plan on breastfeeding, but various health, behavioral, or social factors get in the way and prevent them or cause them to stop early.
Benefits For Mom
Breastfeeding can have numerous benefits for mom, in physical, mental, and financial terms. Benefits for the mother include:
Assists in post-baby weight loss (breastfeeding uses up about 500 calories a day)
Uterine shrinkage (apparently that’s a good thing?)
Decreased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer (if you nurse a female child, it also decreases her lifetime risk of breast cancer! that’s pretty flippin cool)
Decreased rates of depression
Decreased risk of osteoporosis
Bonding experiencefor both mother and baby
Less expensive than formula
Lactational amenorrhea – delays return of fertility by suppressing ovulation, however is not 100% guaranteed, so please don’t use this as the only form of birth control if you don’t want another little one to follow on this one’s heels
Breast milk was developed over millennia of evolution, and as such is perfectly suited to its job of feeding infants during their first few months and years of life.Studies have shown that the caloric intake of breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers was not very different, therefore breastfeeding is a cost-effective way of feeding an infant, providing nourishment for a child at a small cost to the mother. Breastfeeding soon after giving birth increases the mother’s oxytocin levels, making her uterus contract more quickly and reducing bleeding. And of course it bonds baby and mom closer together at every meal. If you cannot or choose not to directly breast feed but still want to give your baby your milk, you can use a breast pump to express the milk and store it. Milk can be stored in special freezer bags (6-12 months) or in bottles in the refrigerator (6-8 days). This frees the mother to return to work or other daytime duties, enables other partners or caregivers to feed the child, and still offers all the benefits of using natural milk. Research suggests that the antioxidant activity in expressed breast milk decreases over time but it still remains at higher levels than in infant formula.
Are there any drawbacks?
Sometimes, due to drug use, infections, mastitis, or other health problems, a woman cannot use natural breast milk. There are still options available. If you want your child to still receive human breast milk, there are breast milk banks where kindly new mothers can donate excess breast milk. The milk will not be tailored to your baby, but will still be nutritionally superior to formula. See the Human Milk Banking Association of North America website for a bank near you. Or elsewhere in the world, a quick Google search should find some.
The process of weaning a baby can also be somewhat traumatic for both mother and child. Many mothers dread the loss of the bonding experience with their child.
Weaning is the process of introducing other foods and reducing the frequency of milk, until the child is no longer receiving any breast milk. Most mammals stop producing the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in milk. This can lead to lactose intolerance. The frequency of lactose intolerance rises over time, and varies among human populations.
It is also unconfirmed that breastfeeding causes any type of permanent disfigurement or ‘sag’. This is more correlated with age, weight, lifestyle, and other factors.
We also cannot discount the fact that many mothers are physically, mentally, or socially unable to begin or continue breastfeeding. There are myriad reasons why this may end up not being right for a mom, some of which may include:
Inability to latch
Everyone’s body is different, everyone’s baby is unique, and everyone has their own individual family and career situation. We get enough advice and mom-shaming and parent guilt from the media, let’s not perpetuate it amongst women. Everyone must make the choice that is best for them at the time.
Why So Much Controversy
The whole concept of to breastfeed or not seems to have a long-running polarizing effect. Again, I am not a mom, and have no intensely strong opinion either way. I think we are all free to make our own choices, and should respect each other as women and human beings in the choices each other makes.
However, it seems moms on both sides of the fence take issue with the other side. Both choices are beset with the notion of being “right” or “good”, while the other choice is wrong and hurts the child, mother, or both.
This is silly. As women we are genetically and evolutionarily programmed to keep an offspring alive. And this is really the key. NO ONE is perfect. Everyone messes up sometimes. Everyone sucks sometimes. And that’s okay. RenegadeMothering gets it.
The upsetting part though, is that society has developed a super-negative view of breastfeeding, especially in public. Women get stares, glares, and sometimes even asked to leave places, all for trying to provide food to their hungry babies. Yet no one objects to a lady on a park bench with a bottle.
Negative perception of breastfeeding has led women to feel discomfort when breastfeeding in public. Wikipedia says: “Even though many women are educated about the health benefits of breastfeeding, less than 25% choose to breastfeed their children”.
A major driver of this is the over-sexualization of breasts. As they say, sex sells. And we like to sell lots of stuff. Therefore, we see lots of breasts in ads, on billboards, in magazines, on TV, on the subway… Every day we are bombarded with images of sexualized women and men trying to make us buy things. Thus, the thought of someone bearing one of those in public touches a nerve because people do not like to associate feeding an infant with sexual pleasure.
Societal judgment along with limitations as to when and where you can breastfeed in public leads some women to give up much sooner than they would have otherwise, which could have negative health effects for the baby later on in life. Shame should not be used as a tool to advocate for or against breastfeeding, rather women should be able to individually define what a good mother is.
As a society, we need to move towards providing women with education on the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as problem solving skills for women who may find it difficult.
References – made using EasyBib (the world’s best auto-citation site!) Kelishadi, Roya, and Sanam Farajian. “The Protective Effects of Breastfeeding on Chronic Non-communicable Diseases in Adulthood: A Review of Evidence.” Advanced Biomedical Research 3.1 (2014): 3. Print. Much, Daniela, Andreas Beyerlein, Michaela Rothbauer, Sandra Hummel, and Anette-G. Ziegler. “Beneficial Effects of Breastfeeding in Women with Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.” Molecular Metabolism 3.3 (2014): 284-92. Print. Slusser, W. “Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes In Developed Countries.” AAP Grand Rounds 18.2 (2007): 15-16. Print. World Health Organization. “10 Facts on Breastfeeding.” WHO. N.p., Feb. 2014. Web.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
The fusion of food, fun, frugality, and curiosity.