The Pool Man Only Comes Twice: Notes From a Newly-Frugal Nutcase
0 comment Wednesday, May 28, 2014 |
Times are dire indeed. Today the Financial Times' main headline blared "Wall St. jobs axe threatens 70,000." Inside was a separate section called "Squeezed? You will Be." It was all about how corporations are cutting way back on travel costs, how hotels are desperate to keep their business travelers. And of course we all know Circuit City filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today. Disney bookings are down 10%. And perhaps the most staggering bad-news nuggett of the day was that Starbucks' 4th Q profits this year are down 97% from last year's. You read that right. NINETY-SEVEN PERCENT.
Retailers are finally beginning to figure out that most all of us, whether rich, middle or poor, are throttling back in a big way. The New York Times reports new advertising campaigns are underway which recognize this new consumer psychosis. (Click on title to this post to read, "Goodbye Seduction, Hello Coupons."). Kia, for example, is marketing its new SUV as a "new kind of luxury" with the tag line: "Since when is overpaying a status symbol?"
Conspicuous consumption is out once again. As Thurston Howell would say, "Lovey. It's just not done."
Even my kid's school says it is "going green" which, given its mafia-like fundraising prowess, is probably just a more palatable way of saying "going cheap." The Friday Folders are no longer stuffed with anything but conduct cards. Countless volunteer moms have been been laid off in the ensuing carnage. The weekly school bulletin, that posts every activity, school holiday and important deadline known to man, is now virtual, putting me at a terrible disadvantage. Last week I forgot all about the field trip to the Arboretum because I didn't see it in writing. I've since written the date for Mr. M's Thanksgiving play in lipstick on the fridge because God forbid I forget to make his fly wings (though how I'll figure that one out is another story altogether; my childcraft skills do not extend beyond pipe cleaners).
The NYT article was particularly timely. The retail side of our economic free-fall came sailing through my mail slot this afternoon in the form of a tasteful, yet not too gold-gilded envelope from Talbot's. Enclosed were discount cards. Talbot's is offering me 30% off of every single purchase I make between now and November 30th. Not 30% off of one purchase. No, 30% off of all purchases. They were even thoughtful enough to include a second 30% off card for me to give a friend. Wow. Nice. Shrewd. Never have I seen anything like this before from the heretofore too-too Talbots.
My surprise when I visited the kid's consignment store in our neighborhood I've already posted about. But last week I was totally unprepared for what I witnessed at the neighborhood women's consignment store. The parking lot was jam-packed with luxury cars; I could hardly find a parking space for my heap. Scores of well-dressed women were shamelessly crawling all over the store. The inventory was staggering. The dressing rooms and staff were stretched beyond capacity and to get either, there was a wait. The whole experience was almost spiritual and, how to put it? Communal. Total strangers to each other we were all, yet unabashedly asking each other, "Does this make me look fat? Come now. Be honest." "Are you familiar with this brand?"
I picked up a pair of Halogen jeans for $14.50 + tax. My very hip sister who is very much "in-the-know" advised this is a "cool" brand and that I got a steal of a deal. Dahling. I'd never heard of the brand before and was just glad to find a pair of jeans that fit. But daahhling. Would that this picture of hip skinny momma in her Halogen jeans were me. Lara Logan, you haunt me.
What other ways have I found to be frugal (besides keeping the lights off so I can't see my roots while I grow out the Beatrice Arthur "Maude" skunk look)? Let's see. I've nixed some of the cable premium channels I never watch. Cut back visits from the yard man, the pool man. Plan trips around town instead of absent-mindedly circling back, as if gas were water. Am brewing my own iced tea, which is tastier anyway (try Celestial Seasonings Cold Brew). I buy my wine by the case now (nothing makes recession fears recede faster than a nice cold glass of Chardonnay).
I'm letting Mr. M's hair grow a bit longer than usual (some frugal-nugal bloggers have suggested that we forego the barber's fee and cut our children's hair ourselves; but I'm just not that brave). Instead of buying a new computer, I'm putting my dinosaur Dell on ice when it gets overheated and temperamental.
Probably the biggest impact on my budget has been from cooking more at home instead of eating out. And my culinary frugal forays are not only cost-effective, they come with a built-in collateral benefit: we are all now on a de facto diet. I won't lie. It has been difficult for everyone concerned, as cooking is antithetical to my being. I suck at cooking. I know it and they know it.
Consequently I become tense, anxious, and extremely high strung while I'm cooking, consulting my recipe as if it contained the nuclear launch codes. It's like I'm conducting open-heart surgery on my own mother and I'm about to botch it. "Get out of here! Get out of my kitchen now, damn it! Can't you see I'm cooking?!" Though I am working on this behavioral issue. Our budget depends on it.
Yesterday I even baked a pie from scratch. It was an out-of-body experience. My family members didn't recognize me. And the pie crust was unrecognizable, too. Before baking it, I forgot to prick the frozen crust with a fork, causing it to slide half-way down into the foil pan and come out misshapen, bloated with ungainly puff-ups. But at least the pie experiment yielded something . . . umm, edible -- or so says Mr. M.
But I have an oft-tested, never-failed-me-yet, fool-proof, frugal delicious soup for you. Trust me here. This soup is all that.
Collard Green (or Turnip Green, suit yourself) Soup
2 cans Campbell's Bean and Bacon Soup
2 medium (or one very large) potatoes
1 chorizo sausage (you can get it uncured w/no nitrates at Whole Foods; it should resemble a hard salami. Do not get the "raw" uncooked-sausage kind)
1 can of turnip or collard greens (do NOT buy the kind with those little white squares in there; I don't know what they are and they taste weird)
Dice the potatoes and cook in four cups of water. When potatoes are tender, add in everything else. And whatever you do, do NOT drain the greens. The chorizo should be cut into bite-sized pieces, which is fairly intuitive. Heat all over the stove until you feel like eating it; season to taste w/salt and pepper and/or a little hot sauce. That's it.
I double the recipe and freeze half of it. It is fabulous and you will fool many folks into believing you are a nurturing Betty-Crocker soup-making kind of mom, and a half-decent cook.
Mr. M takes it to school with him for lunch, hot in his stainless (no BPA) thermos. When the kids say, "Oooh. Gross. That looks totally disgusting," he just smiles and says, "Yep. But it's really, really good." Can there be any better endorsement?