To Make It Easier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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