Art is the Handmaid of Human Good

Life in Lowell, Massachusetts, USA

What I’ve been up to in the past, oh, month-ish…

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Isn’t it funny how things work sometimes?  Here I am, unemployed with lots of time on my hands and a blog.  You’d (or I’d) think that would be the perfect recipe for lots and lots of posts.  But as evidenced by this here site, it’s not (but that’s all going to change – I’ll get to that later though).  There are a few reasons for this, first and foremost being that I no longer spend eight hours a day in front of a computer.  Easy access = more posts.  Now, my time in front of the computer is much more limited and task-oriented (job hunting or working on my volunteer project) with a bit of Facebook thrown in for good luck (and Scrabble).  It’s gotten to the point where my friend Liz (hi Liz!) told me she always reads my new posts (because they come so infrequently, see?  Hee!)

So back to what I’ve been up to… let’s see…

I got a surprise Snuggie in the mail.
Say "Snuggie!"
Gist’s grandmother sent us both Snuggies – the commercial may be terrible but the product is awesome. Who knew I had such difficulty with traditional blankets?

I went to the Worcester Art Museum with Nance.
Worcester Art Museum

I went to my very first casino.
Casino Madness
I didn’t like it very much at all.

I started a super-fun volunteer project.
Research Materials
My CSA, that I love, is going to be giving each of the shareholders a combination veggie fact-sheet/cookbook at the beginning of the season. I think this is a great idea, btw.) I am compiling all of the information and recipes.

I did some knitting.
ChemoCap
A hat for a friend’s mother.

Fair Verona
A wrap for me, still in progress.

I went to Freeport, ME for Spa, Knit & Spin with Amanda and Nance. I had a lovely time, didn’t take a single picture and bought the most lovely peacock yarn.
Dye Dreams Luster Sox - Peacock

Gist and I met J & E at Kane’s Donuts in Saugus, MA for the best donuts ever. J & E heard about Kane’s from way out in San Francisco and knew they had to try it on their next trip to MA. We were lucky enough to join them.
This donut feeds eight.  Or just E.
This donut is supposed to feed eight. E ate the whole thing.

You can just call us the Charlie's Angels of Donuts
You can call us the Charlie’s Angels of donuts.

I headed up to New Hampshire for a good ole sugar shack breakfast.
Day 1/365 - Sunday, March 8th 2009 - Sometimes you just have to jump back in...
Oh, and started a third (because I am crazy) Project 365.

And I got very excited about what I think will be the last snowfall of the season. So bittersweet.
Snow!

I’m also still hooked on Lost, swimming at the spa *sigh*, reading, cooking up a storm, and I’m taking two yoga classes this session instead of one.  I keep busy.  But.  I’ve also been thinking of starting a new project.  The idea for this project came about in a couple of ways.  First, the local news had a special on how to grocery shop on a budget.  They had a dietitian go grocery shopping with the reporter and she gave tips on how to shop, things like use the circular, buy stuff on sale, look at the price per unit, etc.  None of these tips were new to me (even before I was shopping on a budget) and I kinda thought the piece was a waste of time.

Second, whenever Gist or I talk to people about the fact that I’m unemployed the conversation always comes around to budgeting and how we save money while still managing to do fun things*.  Our biggest money-saver is food.  We don’t go out to eat nearly as often as we used to (seriously, we used to eat out a lot) and our weekly grocery budget is $60 a week.  And that’s where people’s jaws drop.  No one can believe that we manage to eat – good nutritious food- on $60 a week.  And while I am used to that number now, when we first re-tooled the budget that number surprised me – our previous grocery number was double (if not more) that and we were going out to eat.

My idea for this new project it to write all about how we eat on $60 a week. Gist has been a big peer pressure-er on this issue – she really thinks that others will be interested in cheap and tasty things to eat (she thinks we’re eating better than we ever have) and she thinks that someday I’ll want to look back and not only say “Wow! I can’t believe I did that!” but also have a record of how it was done. What that means is I’ll be posting what I buy at the grocery store, how much it costs and the recipes that I prepare each day.  Before I do this, there are a few things you should know about Gist and me and how we eat, and how I shop.  The “rules” so to speak…

  • The $60 gets withdrawn in cash on Monday and has to take us through Sunday’s supper.
  • Sometimes I go over my $60.  It happens.  I don’t worry about it.
  • Gist doesn’t eat red meat, pork or poultry.  I don’t eat seafood.  I was a vegetarian during the years when I was learning to and getting comfortable with cooking.  We (for the most part) eat vegetarian at home.  This bullet right here saves us a lot of money.
  • I have all the time in the world to plan, shop and prepare meals.  This also saves A LOT of money.  When I was working, most of our eating out was done for convenience – you know, the I’m too pooped to cook, let’s just go out, order in, etc.  That doesn’t happen anymore.  I also have the luxury of making things from scratch (hello bread and ice cream) that I just wouldn’t be making from scratch if I were working (unless it were a Sunday and my activity for the day were to make ice cream or bread.)
  • I cook a lot, and always have, so I have a really well-stocked pantry.  This also helps save money.
  • I shop almost exclusively at Market Basket. For those of you not in the Boston area, Market Basket rules.  Seriously, it does.  I haven’t always felt this way but I do now.  Market Basket is a supermarket that prides itself on its low, low, lower than low prices and they deliver.  What they lack is ambiance (although I must admit I have grown to love the Basket experience.)  Imagine a supermarket of yore, like where you picture your grandma in the 50s shopping – you know, linoleum tile, small aisles, no frills…  That’s Market Basket.  Here’s a picture, at Christmas which the Basket totally rocks!
    Market Basket does Christmas right!
    Now imagine that store jam-packed with hordes of shoppers.  Like, shoppers everywhere.  (See, that picture up there is an anomaly – Market Basket is never, ever that empty.)  Like, can’t move packed.  That’s the experience of shopping at the Basket.  I won’t lie, I used to avoid the mayhem of the Basket at all costs, preferring to shop at the more “upscale” “New-Hannaford”** (picture those fancy-supermarket wood floors, artfully arranged produce, a huge organics section.)  Now, I still love my Hannaford but I have learned a few things about the Basket.

    1. The mad crush of people shopping at all hours (seriously, it’s packed all. the. time.) means that there is a lot of turnover in the stock.  High turnover = maximum freshness.  Until I started shopping at the Basket, I had no idea how far away a  sell-by date could be.
    2. Market Basket has a really decent organics section. It may not be a separate section within the store, complete with bamboo flooring, but they carry the products. And the Basket’s organic produce costs as much as Hannaford’s conventional produce.
    3. The “fancier” items that we like go on sale a lot and often have really far away sell-by dates which means we can stock up. For most of February, Greek yogurt was on sale for 4/$5 – that’s a great price. I bought a lot.
  • Trader Joe’s also has really great prices on a lot of items. I don’t like their produce and can’t usually get everything I need there but if I’m in the area, I’ll check it out.
  • Gist and I signed up for our CSA again this year.  It’s a big initial investment but it ends up saving money in the long run.  While we were getting our veggies last summer we significantly slashed both our grocery and eating out spending.

Those are our eating and shopping habits that I can think of off the top of my head, I’m sure I’ll come up with more as this goes on…

I’ll start posting recipes and shopping lists for this week starting later today or tomorrow.  I hope you enjoy reading all about cooking and eating on a tight budget.

* We are also lucky enough to have family, friends and loved ones who have treated us to things – meals, drinks, museum admissions, yarn at Spa, coffee gift cards, etc. – that have allowed us to have more spendy fun than we would be able to have otherwise.  Gist and I are both extremely grateful for these gifts and the people that give them.

** Just for fun, here’s a picture of the “New-Hannaford”
Day 39 - Monday, November 27th 2006
Lovely, isn’t it? This was also taken during the holiday season- I know this because of my use of the star filter (god I love that filter!)

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Author: Marianne

Hi my name is Marianne Gries, welcome to Art is the Handmaid of Human Good. I use this space to write about and share pictures of things that interest me. That includes my life in Lowell, my adventures in car-lite living, the food I cook and eat, my dogs, home improvement projects, vacations, knitting, and interesting things and places I see and visit. Thanks for stopping by!

4 thoughts on “What I’ve been up to in the past, oh, month-ish…

  1. I love this idea, Marianne! I’ve been trying to shop/eat on a budget, mainly by avoiding eating out and cooking a lot and eating it all week. Leftovers are my friend. Can’t wait to see what you buy/cook!

  2. Marianne, I’m looking forward to reading the “further installments of…” 🙂 Good to read you again! And as usual, great photos.

  3. Our grocery bill is usually around $60, too. One thing that helped cut that down is no longer drinking soda. I try to restrict red meat to one meal. We have mostly chicken, meat-wise. I also like to try to have one Vegetarian meal a week, too. Market Basket it crazy! I’ve only been to the one in Bellingham. Every time I’ve been in it, regardless of time and day, it’s been super busy! Looking foward to the recipes you’ll be sharing.

  4. For real I was pretty sure that no Basket ever got as packed as the one on Fletcher street…until I went to one here in Lawrence. CRAZY packed!

    p.s. this is a great idea and I’m looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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