Thursday, January 28, 2016

Real Food on a Lean Budget

I was on a Facebook page today where a week’s worth of vegan dinners was posted.  The article encouraged that ingredients for the entire week of entrees would cost just $30. I began to read through the extensive list of comments on the proposed menu and came across a post by a woman named Rebecca.  She lamented that the menu was just way too expensive for her budget.  She had several hungry children and teens to feed.  She feared that if she used all her money each week for the listed ingredients, then the only thing her children would get for breakfast would be a banana.  Going to the store every other day was not feasible.  She was discouraged. 

I immediately identified with her plight.  She’s right!  At a cost of $30 per week for entrees – my budget would need to be a whopping $720 per month – and that, apparently does not include the cost of breakfast and lunch.  Should eating “well” really cost our family upwards of $900 per month?!  My monthly food budget is exactly half of that amount. 

I immediately responded to Rebecca with some encouragement.  If you are in a similar situation, or just want to feed your family more whole, real food, let me share you the same, real, achievable, and time-saving ideas that I gave Rebecca.

1.     We get oatmeal and cream of wheat in 25 or 50 pound bags. Store it away from moisture in an airtight container.  It is shelf-stable for up to a year.  Add a few nuts, raisins, and a little frozen fruit to the oatmeal and you have something that will "hold them" a while. 

2.     We always eat air-popped popcorn for a mid-morning snack. 

3.     I never purchase any of the vegan "meats" or pre-made items. They are too expensive and processed. But, tofu is rather inexpensive - I get 20 oz. from our Chinese store for about $1.70 each. 

4.     We do a baked potato bar once a week. Make a couple of fillings, like vegan creamed peas or taco lentils, add some salsa, homemade guacamole, a few chopped nuts, homemade hummus, or homemade vegan "cheese" sauce, and you have a feast!  Cheap AND filling. 

5.     Buy seasonally. Apples and oranges are in season right now and we are eating a TON of them! 

6.     GLEAN - my friends know that I will gladly take their extra garden produce at the end of the year and freeze it for later use. 

7.     Plan a menu every single week - based on what you have in the house and what is on sale. Plan meals around the sales flyers. 

8.     BULK COOK! I can't say this strongly enough. Beans and brown rice can be made ahead and frozen. Know what you have on-hand so you don't purchase what you don't need

I hope this is helpful to you.  I would be happy to field any of your questions on serving real food on a lean budget. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Retiring Inspired

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am a budgeting queen!  I can show you my original budget from our first year of marriage – 1988.  In fact, I could show you budgets for every year since then.  I have flowcharts, itemized expenses, lists of goals, and more!  It’s a really thick file folder.  I love to crunch those numbers, break life into short, medium, and long-term goals, and shoot high for saving and giving.   But somehow the long-term goal of retirement remained a mystery to me.  Sure, we saved money.  We even had a financial planner.  However, I had no concrete idea of a timetable for retirement. How much money we could really expect to have at that time and much of the terminology was like Greek to me.  I know, given my love of figures with a dollar sign behind them, this admission will surprise many of you.

Thankfully, I was recently given the opportunity to be a part of the launch team for Chris Hogan’s new book “Retire Inspired”.  Released just 4 weeks ago, it’s already a number 1 best seller, and for good reasons! Chris stresses that “retirement is not an old people thing, it’s a smart people thing!”  He makes this whole “investment strategy” thing understandable to us “Non-CPA” folks.  Not only that, he will add fuel to your fire of living within your means, saving for the future, and having a dream for retirement that is attainable.  He assures us that one thing is certain, “If you are going to have a real dream, you need a real plan.”

People often approach retirement in the same manner they approach budgeting… they ignore it and hope that somehow it will just “work out.”  Really!  Only about one third of Americans live on a written budget and less than 40 percent have saved even $25,000 toward their own retirement.  Chris Hogan’s “Retire Inspired” takes the mystery out of saving for retirement and puts you on a whole new path to freedom.  Chris Hogan breaks down saving for retirement into understandable, bite-sized pieces that make sense.  

To me, the most exciting part of the book was Chapter 8, entitled, “Use the Time You’ve Got: Retirement by the Decade”.  Chris compares each decade of life to innings in a baseball game.  He then gives you a plethora of ideas for investing.  Are you in your 20s?  Great!  You are in the first or second inning.  You’ve got time on your side.  Get started, live within your means, invest regularly and you’ll be a millionaire before you know it!  In your 40’s?  You’ve still got time to “get in the game” and score some financial runs.  Even in your 50’s, Chris assures that it is not too late to make strides toward retiring with resources. 

The whole concept of approaching retirement not as an age, but as a number is a unique part of this new book.  Chris gives you an on-line tool for matching your dreams for retirement to your age, the amount you already have saved, and the number of years you have until retirement.  The magic of compound interest (and saving regularly) then reveal how much money you should have in your retirement nest egg by the date you wish to retire.

Chris Hogan’s book helped me to see retirement as an extension of the goals and plans that I had already made!   The principals of good money management are transferrable to the retirement stage of life.  Invest early.  Invest regularly.  Invest in what you understand.  Invest for the long haul.  Have a plan.  Keep your eye on the prize.  Don’t get weary in well-doing. 

Get the book!  Read it!  Use it!  Live well and live with a dream.