March 30, 2009

How much do you need to live on?

How much each of us needs to live on determines a lot of the choices we make in life. And I would argue that how much we THINK we need to live on determines them even more.

Which brings up an interesting paradox in this economy: the more money you make (and think you need to live on), the more worried you probably are. I'd be terrified if I had a 200K job. Your eggs are all in one basket, so to speak, and you've probably come to believe you NEED that much to survive.

While since I'm used to working freelance, I never know how much I'm going to bring in. My husband does this as well, so the effect has been that we always live on LESS than we usually make, in case both of us aren't bringing in very much. But the irony is that my hodge podge collection of little jobs not only has trained me to live on less, it's actually a better bet in this market not to just rely on one job.

Of course most people still work for one employer at one job, and for most people that's convenient and works out the best for them. And that's great. But I would still argue that even for people who know exactly how much they're bringing in, it would be smart to think about how much you really NEED to live on. If you live below your means, you'll not only save more for retirement and things that are important to you, but you'll be more prepared if you face an unexpected layoff or illness in the family.

The interesting thing is that most people tend to adjust to whatever their income is. So if you make $50,000 and you get a raise to $60,000, you probably won't have $10,000 minus taxes in savings at the end of the year, you'll most likely have spent it.

And whether you make $20,000 or $100,000 or $250,000, my guess is that that's the amount you truly believe you NEED to live on. I live in Los Angeles, and a lot of my friends work in the film industry. It's very common to make six figure salaries, even for trade/craft type jobs. So most people have come to believe they can't possibly live on less than $100,000 a year. If you ask them how they think other people live on the average of $42,000, they'll say it's not possible in Los Angeles. It's true that rents and mortgages are more than you would pay in places like the midwest, but we own our home and I certainly don't believe I HAVE to make at least $100,000 or I'll never survive.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. If you drive a BMW, and it needs a new tire, that might cost you $450. I drive a Camry, and as far as I'm concerned it's like driving a luxury vehicle, but when I replace the tires all four will cost less than that. So the CHOICE of driving a BMW puts you in the position of needing more money to live on. As do all kinds of other CHOICES about what neighborhood you live in, how big your house needs to be, how often you must eat out, where your children must attend school ($15,000 a year for some preschools, and I'm not exaggerating for effect), and what car you drive.

All of this is pretty obvious. But I think a lot of our choices are unconscious, because a lot of what we do is determined by the culture we live in. And I mean the culture of our friends and neighborhood and the work we do, in addition to the general consumer culture. It's the soup we swim in. If we earn $250,000, we don't have the slightest idea how someone lives on $42,000, and we probably feel sorry for the poor schlub, if we think of them at all.

For me, whenever I've earned the most money, I've been the most unhappy, because I'm working way too hard. I spend too much on everything because I don't have time to cook or make wise purchasing decisions. When I save more and spend less, I feel more free and more in control. I don't have to worry if I get less work, because I don't need as much money in the first place.

I hope you love the work you do. I'm not anti-work. I think work can be an important part of life and something that offers great rewards. But working for the sake of making more money to buy more stuff is a no-win situation that will end up costing you more than you can afford.

A lot of people are waking up to the trap of our consumer culture. If you've never seen The Story of Stuff, check it out. It's a great argument about how STUFF is destroying us- working for stuff, buying stuff, throwing out stuff. It's destroying our neighborhoods, our communities, our health, and our environment.

So what are YOUR assumptions and expectations about how much money you need to live on? Would you like to be able to live on less? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section.

March 27, 2009

Wine Finds

Just in time for the weekend, I'm starting a new feature called Wine Finds, which is where I tell you about a delicious wine for under $10.

First off, I know the pictures are a little lame. I'm not a photographer, obviously. But I'll work on the presentation. That still life with daffodils wasn't quite what I'd envisioned.

I've also never taken a wine class, and I don't have a wine vocabulary, you can get all that from a real wine blog (with a lot nicer photos!)

My purpose is to tell you how to get a great bottle of wine on a budget. THAT'S why I've been trying out almost every bottle of wine available at Trader Joe's, World Market, Costco, and BevMo for the past several years. To pass along my knowledge to you, my readers. NOT because I'm a wino.

But I AM a frugalista, because here's the Oxford University Press definition:"a person who leads a frugal lifestyle, but stays fashionable and healthy by swapping clothes, buying second-hand, growing own produce, etc."

Well, maybe not that part about the produce, but anyway, I love this post by The Frugalista herself, Natalie McNeal, when she says, "The only thing I would have added to the definition was that frugalistas enjoy good AND cheap wine! I kid! I kid!"

Well, I'm not kidding- good, cheap wine is one of my favorite things (cue soundtrack to either "The Sound of Music" or John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" depending on your taste and mood) and it beats brown paper packages tied up in string. Well, those are good too, but you get my point.

This Castoro Cellars 2006 Syrah wins the honor of my first Wine Find because it's consistently delicious, appeals to all tastes, and comes in right under the limit at $9.99. It's available at Trader Joes, which I hope you have in your neighborhood.

Please share your favorite under $10 wines or let me know if you try this one in the Comments section.

March 25, 2009

My herb garden

I received this herb garden as a birthday gift from a friend. Isn't it beautiful? I am SO excited! Now I'll have fresh basil, thyme, and marjoram to use all summer. That's Walter the Owl in the background.

My friend laughed a little when I exclaimed "Did you make this?" I think she meant that it was so easy, anyone could do it. But not me! I'm the opposite of a green thumb- what would that be called? On the color wheel, if yellow and blue make green, I think red is opposite of green. So call me a red thumb.

Anyway, I'm not a gardener but I was thinking about trying to at least grow a few herbs this year. It's so expensive to buy them, and I have actually had some success with basil plants in the past.

So I'm going to take good care of my beautiful garden in that gorgeous blue bowl. Do you have any tips for me, regarding care and feeding? It's going to be getting almost full sun, and my friend said that would be okay. Also, is there any trick to "harvesting"? As far as how often, where on the plant, and should I pinch with fingers or cut with a scissors?

Also, I use thyme and basil all the time, but do you know any good recipes that use marjoram? Please share your tips and advice in the comments section.

March 23, 2009

More Exceptions to "Buy Nothing New"

Friends keep asking me how my experiment with buying nothing new is going, and I have to admit that it's not that hard. Really. I'm not having Forever 21 withdrawals or drunk dialing Williams Sonoma or anything.

For one thing, I don't really go to malls for recreation or even like to go to them at all, so I haven't really been tempted. For another, as I've mentioned, I have so much already. And finally, the more I interact with other members of The Compact, the more I realize that it's actually feasible to make this a permanent lifestyle.

One reason for that is the EXCEPTIONS. Most Compacters have plenty of them, and most of them give each other a lot of leeway with their own personal choices. The basic motto seems to be: Do the best you can. That's hardly what I would call dogmatic.

So I'm going to add to my list of exceptions now. First of all, no one recommends buying running shoes used, because that would be really bad for your feet. But I'd already decided I was going to keep buying new running shoes when I need them. Also flip flops can't really be bought used, and the same for reading glasses. I'm going to add bathing suits to the list as something I can't imagine buying used, even though I won't need a new one this year.

The other two things I didn't think to write down, but had assumed as exceptions are charities, which I'll continue to support, and services, like the car wash, dry cleaner, and nail salon.

In fact, what I think I like most of all so far about The Compact is that there's really nothing the group won't help figure out. So if you feel like there's just no way you could ever do it because you're sending a kid to college this year and they'll need all those supplies, or you're moving and you'll need to paint and redecorate, or any other reason, they'll be there to give you suggestions about how you could do whatever you need to do in a Compact-y way.

So here's my new list:

1. underwear, bras, and socks
2. hygiene products- deodorant, toothpaste, etc.- plus lotions and prescription drugs
3. expendables- light bulbs, car tires, replacements for air purifier, etc.
4. slippers
5. athletic shoes
6. food, of course
7. flip flops
8. reading glasses
9. bathing suits
10. charities
11. services

This list is getting pretty long. Do you think you could join The Compact if you were allowed to buy all these things new? What exceptions would you need to take to get you to consider it? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section.

March 20, 2009

Refrigerator Games

Recently, I wrote this post about how I'd started labeling our leftovers so we wouldn't forget about them and shove them to the back of the refrigerator, where they'd turn into a science experiment on their way to the trash.

I've been inspired by Jonathan Bloom and his Wasted Food blog to do my small part to reduce our food waste. Our latest fun and games has been very successful.

I've labelled one section of the refrigerator "Eat Me!" That's the food that needs to be eaten within the next few days or it will get thrown out. And it's working! Like a lot of things in life, I think the key to making sure you don't throw out a lot of food is FOCUS.

Besides labeling leftovers and designating a section of the refrigerator to items that need to be eaten immediately, what's also helping is buying LESS food in the first place. When we have too much food, we lose track of what we have and it ends up getting thrown out. For example, I like having a well-stocked pantry, but if it's too full and I forget about the pancake mix, the moths might get to it. And then it's trash.

Jonathan Bloom's focus is entirely on food waste, but there are a lot of other bloggers writing about food waste as a part of being frugal and being green. The Non-Consumer Advocate has a Waste-No-Food Challenge and The Frugal Girl writes a weekly post about how much (or little) food she wasted that week.

Wasting less food not only saves money, it's a small step toward saving the planet. Food waste is a HUGE contributor to greenhouse gases. You can read all about it at Wasted Food.

Please share your fun and games, strategies, and tips for wasting less food in the Comments section. We'd all love to hear them... Who doesn't want to save money and save the planet at the same time?

March 19, 2009

See the Sharks at Long Beach Aquarium- FREE

Free Stuff Alert: If you live in the Los Angeles area, "Shark Lagoon Nights" at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach offers free admission every Friday between 6pm and 9pm, starting this Friday, March 20th.

The public is invited to get up close with the ocean’s ultimate predators at the Aquarium of the Pacific for FREE during Shark Lagoon Nights. Guests will have the opportunity to touch bamboo sharks and see large sharks such as sandtigers as well as rays in the Aquarium’s Shark Lagoon. Beer, wine and snacks are available for purchase. Live music.

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA, 100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802 (562) 590-3100. Free Fridays runs through May 22nd. For more information, click here.

March 18, 2009

Free Tax Help

Free Stuff Alert: As everyone knows, the deadline for filing taxes is April 15. That's exactly four weeks from today. But what you might NOT know is that almost everyone qualifies for some kind of free tax prep help...

I was writing a story about this for one of my "real" jobs, and I realized it would be a good thing to post on the blog, and might help some of you save money. So here goes...

If you haven't filed your taxes yet, you might qualify for free tax preparation assistance. Here are some tips for filing your taxes for free:

1. Free software from the IRS. The typical American spends $200 each year filing basic forms, but 70 percent of taxpayers are eligible for the IRS's free tax-filing software program. If your adjusted gross income is under 56K, you qualify. Here's the link to find out more:,,id=118986,00.html

2. Volunteer Tax Assistance Programs. As long as you're filing a basic return, there's a good chance the IRS can hook you up with some free tax prep assistance. The program is staffed by volunteers who have training on the basic returns. This won't help you if you file more complicated forms or take a lot of deductions. If you file a basic return and you make less than 42K, here's the link:,,id=107626,00.html

3. Free Senior Tax Counseling. If you're over the age of 60, the IRS has partnered with the AARP to offer a program called Tax Counseling for the Elderly. Trained volunteers offer free basic tax counseling and filing assistance. My 91-year-old grandfather used this service, and it was offered at the public library across the street from his house. If you're over 60 years old and low or middle income, here's the link to find a site in your area:,,id=109754,00.html

4. Military. This is probably the best free tax help program of all. It's available worldwide to all armed forces personnel and their families. You can receive free tax help, including filing. And the IRS automatically extends deadlines for filing returns for personnel in combat zones or serving overseas. That also applies if you've been injured in a combat zone. For more information, here's the link:,,id=97273,00.html

5. And finally, free IRS phone or walk-in help. You can always get free assistance by calling or walking in to ask questions about tax preparation. IRS employees are available to answer even the most complicated tax questions. For more info, here's the link:,,id=202121,00.html

I'd like to credit Mellody Hobson, "Good Morning America's" financial expert, for most of this information. I hope one of these programs helps you out, because I'm sure we could all use a tax REFUND this year.

March 16, 2009

I love to swap

When I read about The Compact in Sunset magazine last December, I knew I wanted to join the group. Their non-consumer, non-materialistic lifestyle was right up my alley and fit right in with my own philosophy.

And I realized that I'd been headed in that direction on my own, not just by buying less stuff but by utilizing the bartering method, in other words- SWAPPING.

My first foray into the swap arena all started with a skirt, the one in these photos. It hung there in my armoire, looking so cute, but every time I tried it on it just looked terrible. I kept trying to figure out how such a cute skirt could look so bad on me. I had gotten it on sale at Anthropologie, one of my favorite stores, but which is impossibly expensive at full price. I couldn't bring myself to take it to Goodwill, and so the idea of the swap was hatched in my brain. I knew my girlfriends must all have stuff like this- too nice to give to Goodwill, sometimes still with the price tag on, maybe just didn't fit quite right or you didn't have the right shoes to wear with it, etc. And so we started the clothes swap, and it was a huge success. We all came away with a bunch of super-cute new items that we loved for FREE. And yes, one of my friends looked fantastic in the brainchild skirt, she wears it all the time, and she just sent me those photos to post.

Since we started the swaps, some of my friends haven't even needed to shop for new clothes. It's amazing how something can look so bad on one person and so great on someone else. We all have different body types so we look good in different things. Although one of my friends looks good in almost everything, prompting another friend to exclaim at the last clothes swap, "Is there anything she DOESN'T look good in?"

I like to say our clothes swaps are getting us through the recession in style. And some of the other members of The Compact do swaps all the time- media swaps, craft supply swaps, just about anything you can think of. I'm definitely planning a book swap and kitchen swap sometime this year.

But clothes and books and kitchen supplies are small potatoes! What about swapping your house? That's what my husband and I did last year, and we had one of the best vacations of our life. We traded houses with a couple in London for 5 weeks through an online company called HomeLink. You list your home with photos and a description of its features and the neighborhood, and then you put it up online and see what offers you get. We get emails all the time from people in France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, and Australia, just to name a few. If you want to visit a certain country, you put out inquiries to listings in that area. We had a fantastic vacation because not only was it infinitely more affordable, but we actually came to love our neighborhood in London and feel like we lived there, if only for a short time. We're looking forward to traveling this way from now on. I highly recommend it!

Have you ever swapped or bartered clothes or kitchen items or books? What about your house? Please share your thoughts about all things swap-related.

March 14, 2009

Comment, please...

My dear readers, I think I have finally solved the problem on this blog with leaving your comments. It's been confusing, because some people HAVE been able to comment, but others kept writing to me and telling me they couldn't, or they'd have to do it twice. The problem seemed to be that only people with google accounts or accounts could easily leave comments, all others had to work too hard. So if you've tried to leave comments in the past and had trouble, PLEASE try again. I would love to hear from you and get your feedback.

Also, I've been talking a lot about gifts lately, how to stick with The Compact and be creative and buy used and that type of thing, but I also wanted to give another mention to Global Giving. It's one of my favorite charities, and it easily lends itself to gift giving. When you give someone even a small gift card for $10, they can go online and pick out how they want to help- there are categories like children, animals, disaster relief, HIV/AIDS, and several others- and then they choose a project like buying malaria nets for a family in Mali or purchasing schoolbooks for girls in Afghanistan who weren't able to go to school under the Taliban. It really makes people feel involved and part of the solution, and the money actually makes a real difference. Also, right now Global Giving is offering matching funds on their best women's projects, so your dollars will go twice as far.

Please tell me about your favorite non-commercial, non-consumer, non-material gifts...

March 13, 2009

Pasadena Art Night

Free Stuff Alert: If you live in the area, Friday is Pasadena Art Night, billed as "an evening of free arts and culture." From 6-10pm, area museums open their doors to the public, and a free shuttle will transport you between any of the 14 participating cultural institutions.Choices include a new exhibit of Matisse illustrations at the Norton Simon, a celebration of the music of John Coltrane with LA's finest saxophonists at the Paseo Colorado, SHIKI: Four Seasons of Art at the Shumei Arts Council which celebrates the spirit of nature with taiko drums, koto strings, the art of tea and calligraphy, and an Art Night After Party with food and drink specials from 10pm to 1am at the Paseo Colorado, to name just a few. So come on out and design your own evening of art and music. The event kicks off the Pasadena Arts Weekend.

March 12, 2009

Downtown Art Walk

Free Stuff Alert: If you live in Los Angeles, the 2nd Thursday of the month is the downtown Art Walk, and that's today! The downtown art galleries throw open their doors to the public from noon until 9pm, and some places serve wine and snacks in the evening. The galleries are mostly spaced close enough together to walk (hence the name of the event), but there's also a free shuttle to transfer you between venues.

March 10, 2009

Husband's Compact-y Birthday pt.2

I forgot to add the flowers I bought to the gift list... My husband's favorite flowers are tulips, and he said he liked these even though, as he told me, "he's not really a flower kind of guy."

Cost: $3.99, bringing the total gift cost to $14.96.

My husband took this photo for me, with one of the Hawaiian shirts from Goodwill in the BG. From now on, I'll be able to take my own photos, yay! And that's a funny story...

Either funny or embarrassing, depending on your viewpoint...

I told my husband I wanted to buy a used camera to take photos to post on the blog, and he said he didn't feel comfortable buying used electronics but that refurbished was probably okay. I'd bought two laptops that way and didn't have any trouble with them. It basically means they were returned for some reason and worked on and then couldn't be sold as new. So anyway, I went on the Compact yahoo group and asked the members what they thought about buying refurbished electronics, and a few people responded and said refurbished was okay, as long as it was from a reputable dealer. None of them expected or recommended that I buy a camera used.

So I told my husband I would buy a refurb and he was researching retailers, when he suddenly remembered he already had an extra digital camera he could give me! That's right- a used camera right in our own house. He had been unhappy with a few of the tics of the model he's giving me, so he bought himself a new one because he takes a lot of photos. But there wasn't really anything wrong with the old one, so he kept it. How Compact-y can you get? Now I've got a used camera for free, and my husband's old camera won't end up in a landfill. Perfect.

This is just one more example of why I want this to be a No-Buy and Declutter year. There are probably all kinds of things in our home that we could be putting to use, if only we remembered we had it. What about you- do you think there are things in your home that you don't even remember you own?

March 9, 2009

Tuesday Free Museums

Free Stuff Alert: If you live in Los Angeles, tomorrow is the 2nd tuesday of the month, and that means free admission to LACMA and the Autry National Center of the American West.

March 8, 2009

Pantry Dinners: Mjederah Lentils

I'm very demanding of a recipe. First, if it's going to be a staple, it's got to be quick and easy. I'll spend hours on a special dinner for my husband or a friend's birthday, but for the most part I'm not a gourmet chef. Next, it should be healthy. If it's also economical, that's a big plus. Naturally, it's got to be delicious because I'm not going to eat gruel just to save a few pennies. And finally, bonus points if it's a one-pot meal.

But not even all of those fine qualifications will give a recipe the designation of a PANTRY DINNER. That title goes only to those few and far between concoctions that satisfy all of the above-mentioned demands, along with being made from items normally found in your pantry. This particular recipe, which I received from my near-sister-in-law (my brother's girlfriend) is stellar on all counts. It's easy, healthy, delicious, incredibly economical, and contains just four ingredients which you can keep in your pantry once you buy the only one you may not already have (bulgar wheat). I hope you like it as much as we do....


1 cup lentils
1 cup coarse bulgar wheat
3 tsp salt
2 large yellow onions peeled and sliced thin

Serves 4

First par-cook the lentils: Put the lentils in a pot with water, place on stove and bring to a boil. Add 1 tsp salt and simmer uncovered for 12 minutes.

While the lentils are cooking, warm a frying pan, add ½ cup of olive oil. Warm the oil (not too hot) and add the onions. Cook stirring infrequently until the onions are brown and even crispy.

After 12 min, drain the water from the lentils, rinse the lentils and the pot. Return lentils to the pot along with the bulgar wheat and remaining 2 tsp salt. Add just enough water so that the water is at the same level as the lentils and bulgar in the pot. Too much water will lead to a bland mushy mess, as will attempting with fine grain bulgar wheat!

Place back on stove, bring to a boil again and immediately turn heat down, cover and simmer for 20 minutes (just like cooking rice), until all water is absorbed and the bulgar and lentils are tender.

Pour half the oil, or more, from the onion pan into the cooked mjederah and mix. Taste for salt (will most likely need more). Arrange the carmelized onions on top and serve.

Delicious accompanied by a lemony salad or plain yogurt.


This recipe makes a huge pot that will feed several people or provide leftovers for several days. My husband eats it plain without the carmelized onions, but it's too bland for me that way. You may have to buy the bulgar wheat at a health food store in bulk.

What's your favorite pantry dinner?

March 7, 2009

Husband's Compact-y Birthday

I've mentioned that my biggest concern about joining The Compact has been what to do about gifts. I want to practice a generous form of frugality, rather than a miserly one. In short, I don't want to be cheap.

My husband is incredibly easy to buy for, in the sense that he never expects anything and is happy with almost anything he gets. The one exception to this is the time I spent weeks researching and what was for me a lot of money ($500) to buy him a piano. But that's another story...

This birthday we had a delicious lunch at a nice Italian restaurant using a gift card I'd gotten for donating to our public radio station. It felt really decadent (in a good way) eating pasta and drinking wine in the middle of the day. Later we went with some friends to have martinis and listen to live music at our favorite 50's era Italian restaurant down the street. So I guess the theme of the day was la dolce vita. My husband does love his pizza and pasta. Luckily, my pledge to buy nothing new hasn't kept us from enjoying wine or eating out or listening to music.

I also baked him a vanilla double layer cake, and for the first time I managed to frost it without the crumbs haunting me every time I spread the spatula across the cake. Crumbs peeking through, mocking my efforts. I wish I knew what was different about my method this time, but I have no idea.

Now for the Compact-y part of the celebration, the gift rundown:
*One giant Reese's heart, saved from Valentine's Day. Cost: $2.99
*3 used DVDs (2 still in plastic wrap): Raising Arizona, American Beauty, and Rififi (a 50s French noir caper). Cost: free (a good friend was selling his entire library and wouldn't take any payment for the few I picked out).
*2 Hawaiian shirts from Goodwill. Cost: $8.98
If my math is correct, I think that's a total cost of $11.97. Not bad.

So far, I haven't had any problems buying gifts for friends and relatives. I think it will be harder to buy a wedding gift or a baby shower present. What do you think about trying to stick with a Buy-Nothing-New philosophy when buying gifts? Any ideas for generous wedding or baby shower gifts? Please share your thoughts.

Free museums this weekend

Free stuff alert: Every first weekend of the month, Bank of America customers can enter museums in certain states for free! You just have to flash your debit or credit card. To find out if your state is included, click here.

For March, it's this weekend, March 7-8.
In Los Angeles, the participating museums include LACMA and the Autry National Center of the American West.

Can't make it this weekend? Plan ahead for next month, when the offer will be good on April 4-5.

Thanks to Natalie at The Frugalista Files for this information.

March 6, 2009

Star Gazing

Free Stuff Alert: I just wanted to write a quick post to let you know about a free event TONIGHT. If you live in Los Angeles, why not head up to the Griffith Park Observatory for some star gazing? It's been completely remodeled, and you know how gorgeous and clear the skies have been lately with all the rain we've had. Admission to the Observatory building and grounds is free every day, and on the first friday of the month (that's tonight!) there's a free public lecture called All Space Considered about what's new in the world of space. Tonight at 7:30 pm.

A beautiful night with stars all around... sounds romantic...

March 4, 2009

Frugality is the new black

Have you heard the news? According to this CNN news story, in a recession cheap is chic. The article says even people with money are cutting back on their purchases, and it's not cool to shop for luxury items anymore. I've been practicing my own brand of non-coupon clipping frugality for years, mostly because I can work less and write more if I can manage to live on less money. But I have to admit I have a bit of an aversion to being part of a trend. It almost makes me want to go shopping. But not quite. That's just the contrarian in me. I've had enough of the years of celebrating excess, maybe enough to last me a lifetime. And in my opinion it's way past time for greed and conspicuous consumption to be put to rest.

The article says it's no longer considered cool to brag about possessions and purchases. Does that mean it's cool to brag about NOT purchasing? I wonder. I don't want to be a braggart or a scold on this blog. My goal is to entertain and inspire people to try to live on less so that they can step off the consumer treadmill. I'd like to do it in a fun way, as opposed to a sort of evil stepsister way. Because the truth is I'm pretty good at not spending money and not buying new stuff, but I'm still learning every day. And I still spend too much on some things, but I'll save that for another post. And I certainly have tons to learn about recycling and being green and all those things that relate to frugality. The truth is I'm not very good at all at some of those things, and I hope to remedy that during my year of buying nothing new. I'm looking forward to lots of projects on that front.

One thing I loved in the article was about a recent couture fashion show in Virginia, where one of the most popular presenters was Goodwill Industries. They took stuff off their racks and put it on models and supposedly it looked great. I'm not surprised. Some of my most stylish friends spend very little money. Originality, creativity, surprise, and a sense of fun go a long way toward creating a unique style. Whereas just spending a fortune on the very latest fashion only dates you six months later when you're convinced you're the bee's knees in that pirate get up. What do you think? Do you need to spend a lot of money to be stylish? What about the idea of frugality being the new black? Can you be stylish AND frugal, or are they mutually exclusive? Please write in with your thoughts...

March 2, 2009

Kookah Adobo Madoobo

No, I'm not learning a new language. But all will be revealed in due time, regarding an explanation for the title of this post...

Inspired by Jonathan Bloom and his Wasted Food blog, we've been trying to throw away as little food as possible, preferably none. The items we usually end up throwing away are rotten produce and leftovers. We've been doing a lot better recently, because I'm trying to buy only as much produce as we actually eat instead of the amount I wish we'd eat. Since my husband and I don't have kids, we don't need to plan every meal. There are always times we get invited over to someone's house or just grab a Trader Joe's snack, so we never actually eat seven dinners at home.

We love leftovers and usually eat them, unless they get shoved to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten. So in addition to buying less food, I've also started labeling the containers I put leftovers in. Which brings me to the title of this post. Last week when I made chili, I had half the jar of adobo sauce left over. As long as it's refrigerated, I can use it again weeks later for another batch of chili. But usually I forget about it and it eventually gets thrown out. This time I put it in tupperware and labeled it on top with a sharpie in large block letters "adobo." The next morning when I opened the refrigerator, my husband had added a little something to the label for my amusement. It now read "Kookah Adobo Madoobo." Laughing out loud before you've even had your morning tea or coffee is a great way to start the day. Who says this stuff can't be fun?

Please share your thoughts about wasted food and any secrets you have for keeping it to a minimum.

Free stuff alert: If you live in Los Angeles, the George C. Page museum, home of the famous La Brea tarpits, offers free admission the first Tuesday of the month, which is tomorrow, March 3rd. It's not just for kids! Read about their exciting recent find of a huge cache of ice age fossils including a nearly intact skeleton of a wooly mammoth.